Glial Interfaces: Advanced Materials and Devices to Uncover the Role of Astroglial Cells in Brain Function and Dysfunction

Adv Healthc Mater. 2021 Jan;10(1):e2001268. doi: 10.1002/adhm.202001268. Epub 2020 Oct 26.


Research over the past four decades has highlighted the importance of certain brain cells, called glial cells, and has moved the neurocentric vision of structure, function, and pathology of the nervous system toward a more holistic perspective. In this view, the demand for technologies that are able to target and both selectively monitor and control glial cells is emerging as a challenge across neuroscience, engineering, chemistry, and material science. Frequently neglected or marginally considered as a barrier to be overcome between neural implants and neuronal targets, glial cells, and in particular astrocytes, are increasingly considered as active players in determining the outcomes of device implantation. This review provides a concise overview not only of the previously established but also of the emerging physiological and pathological roles of astrocytes. It also critically discusses the most recent advances in biomaterial interfaces and devices that interact with glial cells and thus have enabled scientists to reach unprecedented insights into the role of astroglial cells in brain function and dysfunction. This work proposes glial interfaces and glial engineering as multidisciplinary fields that have the potential to enable significant advancement of knowledge surrounding cognitive function and acute and chronic neuropathologies.

Keywords: advanced materials; astrocytes; bioelectronics; biomaterials; glial engineering; glial interfaces.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytes*
  • Brain
  • Neuroglia*
  • Neurons