• ISSN 1674-8301
  • CN 32-1810/R

2022 Vol. 36, No. 5

Editorial Commentary
Review Article
Obesity is a worldwide health, economic and social concern, despite efforts made to counteract the spreading wave of eating and nourishment-associated disorders. The review aims to show how the glial cells, astrocytes, contribute to the central regulation of appetite and energy metabolism. The hypothalamus is the brain center responsible for nutrients and nutritional hormone sensing, signal processing, and execution of metabolic and behavioral responses, directed at sustaining energy homeostasis. The astrocytes are endowed with receptors, transporters and enzymatic machinery responsible for glucose, lactate, fatty acids, ketone bodies, as well as leptin or ghrelin transport and metabolism, and that render them supporters and partners for neurons in governing the brain and body energy intake and expenditure. However, the role of astrocytes associated with brain energy metabolism reaches far beyond simple fuel contingent—they contribute to cognitive performance. The cognitive decline which often accompanies high fat- and/or high-calorie diets and correlates with neuroinflammation and astrogliosis, is a major concern. The last two decades of research enabled us to acknowledge the astroglia in obesity-associated dysfunctions and to investigate astrocytes as contributors to the pathology, as well as targets for therapy.
Spinal cord injury (SCI) leads to permanent deficits in neural function without effective therapies, which places a substantial burden on families and society. Astrocytes, the major glia supporting the normal function of neurons in the spinal cord, become active and form glial scars after SCI, which has long been regarded as a barrier for axon regeneration. However, recent progress has indicated the beneficial role of astrocytes in spinal repair. During the past three decades, astrocyte transplantation for SCI treatment has gained increasing attention. In this review, we first summarize the progress of using rodent astrocytes as the primary step for spinal repair. Rodent astrocytes can survive well, migrate extensively, and mature in spinal injury; they can also inhibit host reactive glial scar formation, stimulate host axon regeneration, and promote motor, sensory, respiratory, and autonomic functional recovery. Then, we review the progress in spinal repair by using human astrocytes of various origins, including the fetal brain, fetal spinal cord, and pluripotent stem cells. Finally, we introduce some key questions that merit further research in the future, including rapid generation of large amounts of human astrocytes with high purity, identification of the right origins of astrocytes to maximize neural function improvement while minimizing side effects, testing human astrocyte transplantation in chronic SCI, and verification of the long-term efficacy and safety in large animal models.
Glial cells play an essential part in the neuron system. They can not only serve as structural blocks in the human brain but also participate in many biological processes. Extensive studies have shown that astrocytes and microglia play an important role in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, as well as glioma, epilepsy, ischemic stroke, and infections. Positron emission tomography is a functional imaging technique providing molecular-level information before anatomic changes are visible and has been widely used in many above-mentioned diseases. In this review, we focus on the positron emission tomography tracers used in pathologies related to glial cells, such as glioma, Alzheimer's disease, and neuroinflammation.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder characterized by irreversible deterioration of upper and lower motor neurons (MNs). Previously, studies on the involvement of glial cells in the pathogenic process of ALS have mainly revolved around astrocytes and microglia. And oligodendrocytes (OLs) have only recently been highlighted. Grey matter demyelination within the motor cortex and proliferation of the oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) was observed in ALS patients. The selective ablation of mutant SOD1 (the dysfunctional superoxide dismutase) from the oligodendrocyte progenitors after birth significantly delayed disease onset and prolonged the overall survival in ALS mice model (SOD1G37R). In this study, we review the several mechanisms of oligodendrocyte dysfunction involved in the pathological process of myelin damage and MNs death during ALS. Particularly, we examined the insufficient local energy supply from OLs to axons, impaired differentiation from OPCs into OLs mediated by oxidative stress damage, and inflammatory injury to the OLs. Since increasing evidence depicted that ALS is not a disease limited to MNs damage, exploring the mechanisms by which oligodendrocyte dysfunction is involved in MNs death would contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of ALS and identifying potential drug targets.
Oligodendrocyte lineage cells (OL-lineage cells) are a cell population that are crucial for mammalian central nervous system (CNS) myelination. OL-lineage cells go through developmental stages, initially differentiating into oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs), before becoming immature oligodendrocytes, then mature oligodendrocytes (OLs). While the main function of cell lineage is in myelin formation, and increasing number of studies have turned to explore the immunological characteristics of these cells. Initially, these studies focused on discovering how OPCs and OLs are affected by the immune system, and then, how these immunological changes influence the myelination process. However, recent studies have uncovered another feature of OL-lineage cells in our immune systems. It would appear that OL-lineage cells also express immunological factors such as cytokines and chemokines in response to immune activation, and the expression of these factors changes under various pathologic conditions. Evidence suggests that OL-lineage cells actually modulate immune functions. Indeed, OL-lineage cells appear to play both "victim" and "agent" in the CNS which raises a number of questions. Here, we summarize immunologic changes in OL-lineage cells and their effects, as well as consider OL-lineage cell changes which influence immune cells under pathological conditions. We also describe some of the underlying mechanisms of these changes and their effects. Finally, we describe several studies which use OL-lineage cells as immunotherapeutic targets for demyelination diseases.
Cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD) is a leading cause of stroke and dementia. As the most common type of inherited CSVD, cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) is characterized by the NOTCH3 gene mutation which leads to Notch3 ectodomain deposition and extracellular matrix aggregation around the small vessels. It further causes smooth muscle cell degeneration and small vessel arteriopathy in the central nervous system. Compromised cerebral blood flow occurs in the early stage of CADASIL and is associated with white matter hyperintensity, the typical neuroimaging pathology of CADASIL. This suggests that cerebral hypoperfusion may play an important role in the pathogenesis of CADASIL. However, the mechanistic linkage between NOTCH3 mutation and cerebral hypoperfusion remains unknown. Therefore, in this mini-review, it examines the cellular and molecular mechanisms contributing to cerebral hypoperfusion in CADASIL.
Original Article
Astrocytes, the multi-functional glial cells with the most abundant population in the brain, integrate information across their territories to regulate neuronal synaptic and cerebrovascular activities. Astrocytic calcium (Ca2+) signaling is the major readout of cellular functional state of astrocytes. The conventional two-photon in vivo imaging usually focuses on a single horizontal focal plane to capture the astrocytic Ca2+ signals, which leaves >80% spatial information undetected. To fully probe the Ca2+ activity across the whole astrocytic territory, we developed a pipeline for imaging and visualizing volumetric astrocytic Ca2+ time-lapse images. With the pipeline, we discovered a new signal distribution pattern from three-dimensional (3D) astrocytic Ca2+ imaging data of mice under isoflurane anesthetic states. The tools developed in this study enable a better understanding of the spatiotemporal patterns of astrocytic activity in 3D space.
Brief Report
Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) is an early-onset inherited small vessel disease. Decreased cerebral blood flow (CBF) may contribute to white matter hyperintensity (WMH) severity in CADASIL, but more evidence is needed to support this hypothesis. This study comprised six patients with CADASIL who harbored mutations in the coding sequence of NOTCH3 and twelve age-matched neurologically healthy controls. We collected clinical and imaging data from patients with CADASIL and divided the brain into four regions: WMH, normal-appearing white matter (NAWM), gray matter (GM), and global brain. We analyzed the relationship between CBF of each region and the WMH volume. Compared with the control group, CBF was significantly decreased in all four regions in the CADASIL group. Lower CBF in these regions was correlated with higher WMH volume in CADASIL. CBF in the NAWM, GM and global regions was positively correlated with that in WMH region. However, after correction tests, only CBF in the WMH region but not in NAWM, GM and global regions was associated with WMH volume. Our findings suggest that CBF in the WMH region is an influencing factor of the WMH severity in CADASIL.