The prestigious journal Nature Neuroscience has published an article on the results of a study carried out by a group of researchers including Prof. Dr. Robert Zorec from the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Medicine, in which researchers reached a worldwide consensus on the pathologic potential of astrocytes.
The paper by Escartin et al, entitled: “Reactive astrocyte nomenclature, definitions, and future directions", published last week in Nature Neuroscience, 2021; 24(3): 312-325, represents the work of an international team of researchers coordinated by Professor Alexei Verkhratsky, a corresponding member of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts and the Slovene National Core Research Program “Cell Physiology”, led by Professor Robert Zorec. During “The Other Brain” meeting, held at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (6-8th November, 2019), co-supported by the British Embassy Ljubljana, the UK Science and Innovation Network, Dr. Gorazd Stokin of the International Clinical Research Center at Brno, Czech Republic, and the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Medicine, Slovenia, the importance of astrocytes, a type of glial, non-neuronal cells, in brain pathologies has been discussed. The significance of this publication is in reaching a worldwide consensus on the pathologic potential of astrocytes. These cells have been identified over a century ago, and yet their function has not been thoroughly investigated until last decades, when the research accelerated and revealed that they are responsible for an optimal brain environment so that all neuronal functions can be performed. Astrocytes can change gene expression, morphological appearance and function in response to infection, injury, or disease of the central nervous system. In this paper, a fundamental consensus is reached on astrocytes demonstrating a form of defensive plasticity, closely linked to disease conditions and are therefore a target for developing new medicines. It is important to highlight that such a large agreement has taken years of work.