Astrocytes, a subtype of glial cells, come in variety of forms and functions. However, overarching role of these cell is in the homeostasis of the brain, be that regulation of ions, neurotransmitters, metabolism or neuronal synaptic networks. Loss of homeostasis represents the underlying cause of all brain disorders. Thus, astrocytes are likely involved in most if not all of the brain pathologies. We tabulate astroglial homeostatic functions along with pathological condition that arise from dysfunction of these glial cells. Classification of astrocytes is presented with the emphasis on evolutionary trails, morphological appearance and numerical preponderance. We note that, even though astrocytes from a variety of mammalian species share some common features, human astrocytes appear to be the largest and most complex of all astrocytes studied thus far. It is then an imperative to develop humanized models to study the role of astrocytes in brain pathologies, which is perhaps most abundantly clear in the case of glioblastoma multiforme.
Keywords: astroglia; brain; homeostasis; pathology.
© 2017 International Society of Neuropathology.