At the University of California, San Diego, a recent study explored potential causes of Alzheimer’s Disease through measures of brain activity. It was discovered that astrocytes, which are non-neuronal cells that provide protection for the brain’s neurons, play a more important role than once believed.
In this image, neurons are shown in green and astrocytes are shown in red. The cells were from the cortex region of rat brains and grown in the lab. The study shows that amyloid beta peptides are capable of triggering calcium waves from astrocytes, which is particularly relevant given recent theories that calcium balance within cells could be an indicator of Alzheimer’s risk.
“We didn’t generate these waves artificially. Amyloid beta fragments induced the waves spontaneously, and that raises some interesting questions about the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease and how astrocytes may be involved,” said Gabriel Silva, senior author of the paper and a bioengineering professor from the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.