A team of researchers from Charite Universitatsmedizin Berlin has been able to demonstrate the important role played by the reorganisation of the structural and membrane elements of glial cells.
The researchers' findings, which have been published in Nature Communications, shed light on a new neuroprotective mechanism that the brain could use to actively control damage following neurological injury or disease.
The nervous system lacks the ability to regenerate nerve cells and is therefore particularly vulnerable to injury. Following brain injury or infection, various cells have to work together in a coordinated manner in order to limit damage and enable recovery.
'Astrocytes', the most common type of glial cell found in the central nervous system, play a key role in the protection of surrounding tissues. They form part of a defence mechanism known as 'reactive astrogliosis', which facilitates scar formation, thereby helping to contain inflammation and control tissue damage.
Astrocytes can also ensure the survival of nerve cells located immediately adjacent to a site of tissue injury, thereby preserving the function of neuronal networks.
The researchers were able to elucidate a new mechanism that explains what processes happen inside the astrocytes and how these are coordinated.