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Astrocytes are a non-neuronal cell type in the brain that play an important supportive role – nurturing neurons and helping to maintain homeostasis in the central nervous system.
When neurons get damaged or stressed, however, astrocytes can do a Jekyll & Hyde-like transformation and start releasing a toxic substance that helps to kill neurons. This nasty change in the temperament of astrocytes is believed to play a role in neurodegenerative conditions.
Exactly what the released toxic substance is has long been a mystery.
Until now it seems.
But the nature of the presumed substance is something of a surprise to the research community.
In today’s post, we will review a new research report that points towards saturated lipids as the mediators of astrocyte-induced toxicity and we will consider what this could mean for future therapies for neurodegenerative conditions.
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One of my favourite scientists to listen to is Ben Barres.
It is wonderful to go back and watch some of his old videos. Not just because you learn so much from him, but also for the passion that he always had when discussing general science, his research, and other things he believed in.
For example, watch the first 10-15 minutes of this video:
The presentation above was made on January 9th 2017, and despite knowing that he had less than a year to live, you can hear the energy and excitement in his voice for the material he is presenting. He desperately wanted to share the information and to learn what others might think about it.
He was truly an amazing individual.
Even more so, because almost 4 years after he died, Ben is still publishing spectacular research.