What do astrocytes do?

2002/11/27 Roa Zubia, Guillermo - Elhuyar Zientzia

These starry cells control brain hemorrhage.

The brain is not a mere ordered neuronal set. In addition to these cells of electrical activity, they are formed by the blood vessels and the support called glia. However, the gli is not only a support, but it has many other functions. For example, glia is responsible for metabolism and this is very important because, for example, brain activity depends on glucose consumption.

Glia is made up of cells of various types. Among them are astrocytes, star-shaped cells linked to the synapses of neurons. Scientists did not know what these cells do, but were considered mere supports. Now, neurologists at the University of Padova have found that they have a very important function: astrocytes control bleeding.

In those parts where the electrical activity of the neurons is high, astrocytes relax the muscles of the blood vessels and, in this way, they direct at every moment the necessary amount of blood to the proper place. To demonstrate this, scientists have excited through the electrodes the brain fragments of rats and have found that the blood of the area increases.

So they have discovered what astrocytes do, but neurologers do not know how to do it. Probably, cells emit substances that contract or relax the muscles of the blood vessels. However, this is still a hypothesis and it will have to be seen whether the research confirms or not.

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