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AAIC 2022 | Reactive astrocytes as therapeutic targets in neurodegenerative disease

Carole Escartin, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Université Paris Saclay, Fontenay-aux-roses, France, talks about reactive astrocytes as therapeutic targets for neurodegenerative diseases. The natural role of astrocytes is to support neuronal function; they maintain antioxidant defense, metabolic supply, and iron regulation of synapses. Dr Escartin highlights the importance of taking advantage of these astrocyte features to make them better support neurons. Research is looking into astrocyte manipulation through gene therapy or pharmacological intervention (e.g., STAT3 inhibition) – although both have their own drawbacks. Gene therapy, whilst highly specific and able to target reactive astrocytes, has many risks associated with its use. Pharmacological agents carry less risks than gene therapy, but its broad approach could mean it targets too many other cells. However, Dr Escartin suggests that it could be possible to develop highly specific, brain penetrant pharmacological tools that would target astrocytes without detriment to surrounding cells. This interview took place at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2022 in San Diego, CA.