Monday November 19, 2018

Astrocytes help in keeping the brain healthy, reveals a study

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New York: Scientists reported in a study that star-shaped brain cells appear to help in keeping blood pressure and blood flow inside the brain on a healthy tone.

The finger-like appendages of astrocytes, called end-feet, quite literally wrap around the countless, fragile blood vessels in the brain, constantly monitoring what is going on inside and around them.

“This is the first evidence of the astrocytes’ role in pressure-induced myogenic (muscle) tone, which is keeping things regular,” said Dr Jessica A Filosa, neurovascular physiologist at Georgia Regents University.

Filosa terms astrocytes as “housekeepers”. When they sense a change in blood pressure inside the brain, one of their duties is releasing signals that help dilate or constrict the blood vessels, whichever it takes to maintain the healthy status quo.

In fact, astrocytes keep their fingers on the pulse of blood vessels and neurons simultaneously, apparently playing an important role in balancing their needs.

“They are perfect bridges between what is going on with neuronal activity and blood flow changes to the brain.”

Astrocytes relentlessly monitor and respond to changes in blood pressure to help keep the brain from getting too much blood.

The team is now looking into what effect activating astrocytes has on neuronal activity.

The paper appeared in The Journal of Neuroscience. (IANS)

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Travelling To Space May Alter Brain, Says Study

Upon return to Earth, this process is then gradually reversed, which then results in a relative reduction of white matter volume

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Keplar, NASA
According to co-author Andrew Casey, it was previously believed that the first stars that formed in the universe could not possibly still exist today. VOA

Spending long periods in space not only leads to muscle atrophy and reductions in bone density, it also has lasting effects on the brain, suggests a study.

The study, led by a team of neuroscientists from the University of Antwerp in Belgium and Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) of Munich, showed that differential changes in the three main tissue volumes of the brain remain detectable for at least half a year after the end of their last mission.

“Our results point to prolonged changes in the pattern of cerebrospinal fluid circulation over a period of at least seven months following the return to Earth,” said professor Peter zu Eulenburg from the LMU.

“However, whether or not the extensive alterations shown in the grey and the white matter lead to any changes in cognition remains unclear at present,” he added.

The study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, was carried out on ten cosmonauts, each of whom had spent an average of 189 days on board the International Space Station (ISS).

The magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) scans performed in the days after the return to Earth revealed that the volume of the grey matter was reduced compared to before launch.

ISS Launched First satellite For Cleaning Space Junk
Space travel can alter brain: Study, Pixabay

Seven months later, this effect was partly reversed, but nevertheless still detectable.

In contrast, the volume of the cerebrospinal fluid, which fills the inner and outer cavities of the brain, increased within the cortex during long-term exposure to microgravity.

Further, the white matter tissue volume (those parts of the brain that are primarily made up of nerve fibres) appeared to be unchanged upon investigation immediately after landing.

But, the subsequent examination six months later showed a widespread reduction in volume relative to both earlier measurements.

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In this case, the team postulated that over the course of a longer stint in space, the volume of the white matter may slowly be replaced by an influx of cerebrospinal fluid.

Upon return to Earth, this process is then gradually reversed, which then results in a relative reduction of white matter volume.

According to the researchers, further studies using a wider range of diagnostic methods are deemed essential, to minimise the risks associated with long-term missions and to characterise any clinical significance of the findings. (IANS)