Until recently, despite being the most prominent cell type in the human brain, research on astrocytes has been overshadowed by neurons. Once thought to only provide structural support to neurons it has become clear that astrocytes are a vastly heterogenous population of cells with varied functions and roles to match.
Axol Bioscience Science Scholarship recipient, Nataly Martynyuk, is a PhD student at the Brain Repair Centre, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge, UK. Her research focuses on the actions of alpha-chimerins in mechanisms relevant to dendritic spine formation and neurodegeneration. Nataly reviews the evolution of astrocyte research, their biological form and function, and the role they play in human consciousness and memory formation.
Our understanding of the central nervous system (CNS) has grown significantly in recent years. The advent of new technologies and products have enabled us to explore not only the molecular mechanisms involved in learning, development, memory formation, electrical conductivity and synaptic function but also the onset and deterioration of these systems in neurological disorders such as epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases as well as psychiatric conditions.