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Astrocytes – Location, Structure, and Function

  • image descriptionAstrocytes are the most common support cell in the brain and spinal cord. Their thin image descriptioncytoplasmic processes extend in all directions to make contact with capillaries, neurons, and other astrocytes.
An image showing the Astrocytes connected to the Neurons and Capillary in addition to Oligodendrocyte and Gray and white matter
An image showing the Astrocytes connected to the Neurons and Capillary in addition to Oligodendrocyte and Gray and white matter
An image showing the Astrocytes and it's process connected to the Neurons and Capillary in addition to Oligodendrocyte and Gray and white matter
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  • The processes that terminate on the capillaries expand into perivascular (end) feet, which image descriptioncover the walls of these blood vessels.
Cross-section of a capillary showing the Endothelial cells and basement membrane
Cross-section of a capillary showing the End foot in addition to the Endothelial cells and basement membrane
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Research indicates that astrocytes perform many functions:

  1. They help form a blood-brain-barrier by secreting chemicals that regulate how capillary endothelial cells transfer substances into the CNS from the blood.
  2. They release lactose made from glucose, which neurons use for energy.
  3. They remove excess neurotransmitter and K+.
  4. They help regulate synaptic activity between neurons.
  5. They help increase blood flow when neurons are most active.
  6. Their microfilament-filled processes form a supportive network that helps hold neurons and blood vessels in place.
  7. They release nerve growth factor (NGF) and other growth factors to stimulate neuron growth in the embryonic brain and after injuries.
  8. They become phagocytic after injuries and help remove damaged tissues. If needed, they can also form glial scars.

Overview:

An image showing the Astrocytes and it's process connected to the Neurons and Capillary in addition to Oligodendrocyte and Gray and white matter numbered and without answers
An image showing the Astrocytes and it's process connected to the Neurons and Capillary in addition to Oligodendrocyte and Gray and white matter numbered and labeled
Cross-section of a capillary showing the End foot, Endothelial cells and basement membrane numbered without answers
Cross-section of a capillary showing the End foot, Endothelial cells and basement membrane numbered and labeled
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