Astrocytes in the initiation and progression of epilepsy

Nat Rev Neurol. 2022 Dec;18(12):707-722. doi: 10.1038/s41582-022-00727-5. Epub 2022 Oct 24.


Epilepsy affects ~65 million people worldwide. First-line treatment options include >20 antiseizure medications, but seizure control is not achieved in approximately one-third of patients. Antiseizure medications act primarily on neurons and can provide symptomatic control of seizures, but do not alter the onset and progression of epilepsy and can cause serious adverse effects. Therefore, medications with new cellular and molecular targets and mechanisms of action are needed. Accumulating evidence indicates that astrocytes are crucial to the pathophysiological mechanisms of epilepsy, raising the possibility that these cells could be novel therapeutic targets. In this Review, we discuss how dysregulation of key astrocyte functions - gliotransmission, cell metabolism and immune function - contribute to the development and progression of hyperexcitability in epilepsy. We consider strategies to mitigate astrocyte dysfunction in each of these areas, and provide an overview of how astrocyte activation states can be monitored in vivo not only to assess their contribution to disease but also to identify markers of disease processes and treatment effects. Improved understanding of the roles of astrocytes in epilepsy has the potential to lead to novel therapies to prevent the initiation and progression of epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytes* / physiology
  • Epilepsy* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Seizures