Astrocytes help the brain to establish long-lasting memories
Earlier, the star-shaped cells in our brain which are called astrocytes were actually considered as just supporting brain cells with no specific functions of their own.
The latest study which was published on the GLIA on 26th July 2019, suggested that these brain cells might have more tasks to do than just supporting. Salk researchers have actually discovered that these cells are associated with long term memories.
If this research is validated, then it is quite possible for us to come up with therapies for long term memory issues like dementia.
Professor Terrence Sejnowski who is the head of Salk’s Computational Neurobiology Laboratory stated that this research is an indication of astrocytes can be much more than what they are supposed to be. They play a vital role in transferring and storing information.
The neurons release neurotransmitters to communicate with the brain using electric impulses. On the other hand, astrocytes release gasotransmitters and generate calcium signals.
These gasotransmitters are quite alike to the chemical composition of neurotransmitters. Earlier, it was believed that these gasotransmitters just support the neurotransmitters and help in the communication of neurons.
However, with this recent study, it is possible that these gasotransmitters might play some active roles instead of being just supporters in the background.
The researchers tested two groups of mice. One was the normal mice whereas the other one was the genetically engineered mice which lacked IP3R2. IP3R2 helps astrocytes to release calcium.
After the test, it was found that the normal group which contained IP3R2 had better memory retaining capability than the genetically engineered mice.
Memory consolidation depends on a significant number of mechanisms. The lack of IP3R2 in mice indicated that these astrocytes might have something to do memory consolidation.
The future studies are already planned and if everything happens as expected, we might have dependable cures and therapies for long term memory issues.