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Astrocytes Help Separate Man From Mouse
Date:3/23/2009

n so interesting."

To do the study, the team studied human brain tissue taken from 30 people who had had surgery, mostly to treat epilepsy or brain tumors. They compared the astrocytes in human brains to those in mice and rats. In addition to the findings above, the team noted additional differences:

  • Astrocytes in people signal five times as fast as those in mice and rats.
  • Human astrocytes are organized into more complex units known as domains than are rodent astrocytes. A typical rodent domain includes tens of thousands of neuronal synapses, while the team found that a human domain might include up to 2 million synapses. These domains are highly organized groupings of cells that appear to be precisely situated, almost like atoms in a crystal. This organization is likely important for information processing, said Nedergaard, who notes that brain injury is associated with a loss of astrocytic domain organization and a decrease in cognitive function.
  • In people, cells known as fibrous astrocytes, which are mainly for structural support, are on average more than twice as large as their counterparts in mice and rats. Also, people have another type of cell known as interlaminar astrocytes, which are not present in rodents.
  • Another difference concerns the end feet of protoplasmic astrocytes, which wrap around blood vessels throughout the brain and are thought to play a role in the brain's blood flow. In humans, these end feet cover the walls of blood vessels much more completely than they do in mice and rats, possibly playing a much more important role in keeping agents in the blood from entering the brain and in regulating blood flow.

The authors include Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of Neurology; Webster Pilcher, M.D., professor and chair of Neurosurgery; Jeffrey Wyatt, D.V.M., professor and chair of Comparative Medicine;
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SOURCE University of Rochester Medical Center
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