For the first time, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have managed to produce brain cells known as astrocytes through stem cells in the laboratory.
Astrocytes are the most common brain cells and perform an important role in the brain function. The cells act as bodyguards to neurons and not only protect the neurons but also perform other functions such as cleaning up excess neurotransmitters, help in regulating the blood flow and perform a vital role in the blood-brain barrier that helps keep out toxic substances from entering the brain.
Lead researcher Su-Chun Zhang said that not much attention has been given to astrocytes even though they play a very important role in the brain function since it is very difficult to get a human astrocyte cell.
"Without the astrocyte, neurons can't function. Astrocytes wrap around nerve cells to protect them and keep them healthy. They participate in virtually every function or disorder of the brain", Zhang wrote in his report that has been published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.