ANCHOR LEAD: ASTROCYTES, A TYPE OF CELL FOUND IN THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM, ARE IMPORTANT IN LOU GEHRIG’S DISEASE, ELIZABETH TRACEY REPORTS
Astrocytes are cells found in the brain and spinal cord that were thought to play a supportive role to neurons, the stars of the central nervous system show. But now it turns out that astrocyte-neuron interaction underpins many degenerative diseases of the central nervous system, including amyelotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Jeffrey Rothstein, an ALS expert at Johns Hopkins, describes the finding.
ROTHSTEIN: Looks like from these studies that the neuron starts the whole process. By it not doing something properly it changes the astrocyte . The twist is once the astrocyte changes in this adverse way it may then adversely affect many other neurons. A neuron may change if you will in one region, but the astrocyte in turn becomes injurious to other neurons and make other neurons sick. And that begins a cycle of sick neuron then becomes sick astrocyte then sick neurons make sick astrocytes and it’s a growing problem. :30
Rothstein says understanding the process will help researchers develop logical ways to interrupt it. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.