Astrocytes are one of the common types of support cell in the brain, performing a wide variety of tasks that range from repair to maintaining the balance of various signal and electrolyte molecules. Researchers find evidence to suggest that astrocytes shift into an inflammatory mode in large numbers with advancing age. Chronic inflammation is a feature of most neurodegenerative conditions, and of aging in the broader sense. It disrupts the complex relationships between cell types that are needed for most sophisticated behavior in tissues, such as regeneration, or any number of cell communication processes required for correct function of the brain.
This is particularly interesting in the context of recent findings regarding cellular senescence in astrocytes. A large fraction of these cells show some signs of senescence in older individuals, and one of the characteristic bad behaviors of senescent cells is the generation of chronic inflammation through the senescence-associated secretory phenotype. Researchers have pinned down astrocyte senescence as a contributing factor in Parkinson’s disease, for example. It is also worth noting that this business of cells shifting into an inflammatory mode in greater numbers with advancing age is also observed in macrophages, where it disrupts regenerative processes,
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