An emerging role of astrocytes in vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia

An emerging role of astrocytes in vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia.

Abstract

Vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID) is understood to be the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer's disease, and is also a frequent comorbidity with Alzheimer's disease. While VCID is widely acknowledged as a key contributor to dementia, the mechanistic underpinnings of VCID remain poorly understood. In this review, we address the potential role of astrocytes in the pathophysiology of VCID. The vast majority of the blood vessels in the brain are surrounded by astrocytic end-feet. Given that astrocytes make up a significant proportion of the cells in the brain, and that astrocytes are usually passively connected to one another through gap junctions, we hypothesize that astrocytes are key mediators of cognitive impairment because of cerebrovascular disease. In this review, we discuss the existing body of literature regarding the role of astrocytes at the vasculature in the brain, and the known consequences of their dysfunction, as well as our hypotheses regarding the role astrocytes play in VCID. This article is part of the Special Issue "Vascular Dementia".

KEYWORDS:

Alzheimer's disease; astrocyte; dementia; glia; neurodegeneration; vascular dementia

PMID: 29222909 
DOI: 10.1111/jnc.14273