Neuroscience and Neurobiology have historically been neuron biased, yet up to 40% of the cells in the brain are astrocytes. These cells are heterogeneous and regionally diverse but universally essential for brain homeostasis. Astrocytes regulate synaptic transmission as part of the tripartite synapse, provide metabolic and neurotrophic support, recycle neurotransmitters, modulate blood flow and brain blood barrier permeability and are implicated in the mechanisms of neurodegeneration. Using pluripotent stem cells (PSC), it is now possible to study regionalised human astrocytes in a dish and to model their contribution to neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. The evidence challenging the traditional neuron-centric view of degeneration within the CNS is reviewed here, with focus on recent findings and disease phenotypes from human PSC-derived astrocytes. In addition we compare current protocols for the generation of regionalised astrocytes and how these can be further refined by our growing knowledge of neurodevelopment. We conclude by proposing a functional and phenotypical characterisation of PSC-derived astrocytic cultures that is critical for reproducible and robust disease modelling.
- Disease modelling
- Neuralisation/differentiation protocols