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Understanding astrocytes is key to understanding autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia — ScienceDaily

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New research from Oregon Health & Science University for the first time documents the presence of astrocytes in zebrafish, a milestone that will open new avenues of research into a star-shaped type of glial cell in the brain that is critical for nearly every aspect of brain assembly and function.

The research was published this week in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

With their transparent bodies, zebrafish larvae provide a unique opportunity to gaze into the inner workings of the central nervous system, including the brain, even in living animals. The identification of astrocytes and the generation of tools to work with them in zebrafish will enable researchers around the world to open new lines of research to advance scientific understanding of how astrocytes function.

Astrocytes, it turns out, are the most abundant and mysterious cell type in the human brain, and OHSU is becoming a hub for research into their roles in development, brain function and disease.

“There is no neurodegenerative disease that I know of where astrocytes are not profoundly affected in some way,” said senior author Kelly Monk, Ph.D., professor and co-director of the Vollum Institute at OHSU. “This gives us a powerful tool to get a handle on what these cells do and how they do it.”

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Materials provided by Oregon Health & Science University. Original written by Erik Robinson. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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