In recent years, previously unsuspected roles of astrocytes have been revealed, largely owing to the development of new tools enabling their selective study in situ. These exciting findings add to the large body of evidence demonstrating that astrocytes play a central role in brain homeostasis, in particular via the numerous cooperative metabolic processes they establish with neurons, such as the supply of energy metabolites and neurotransmitter recycling functions. Furthermore, impairments in astrocytic function are increasingly being recognized as an important contributor to neuronal dysfunction and, in particular, neurodegenerative processes. In this review, we discuss recent evidence supporting important roles for astrocytes in neuropathological conditions such as neuroinflammation, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. We also explore the potential for neuroprotective therapeutics based on the modulation of astrocytic functions.
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