Astrocyte has a central role in brain development and function and has gained increasing attention over the past two decades. With our well-established STEMOD™ platform, the experienced scientists at Creative Biolabs are dedicated to helping you with astrocyte differentiation service. Our high-quality services will greatly contribute to the success of your projects.
Introduction to Astrocyte
Astrocyte is the most abundant cell type in the central nervous system (CNS), with remarkable heterogeneity in morphology and function. They are connected with CNS neurons along with other cell types to form structural and functional networks. Astrocytes rival the diversity of neurons in cellular morphologies, gene expression profiles, developmental origins, physiological properties, functions, and responses to injury and disease.
Functions of Astrocyte
In the past, astrocyte was believed to act as passive support cells for electrically active neurons and to be primarily responsible for the cellular homeostasis of the CNS. Still, current research shows their active participation in many other processes, such as the formation of neural networks, recycling neurotransmitters, and detoxification. Astrocyte plays a direct role in the developing CNS in maintaining an optimal environment for the normal development and function of neurons. One of the functions of astrocytes is to supply energy in the form of lactate to neurons. Another essential function of astrocytes is maintaining brain homeostasis through multiple dynamic equilibrium adjustments, including water balance and ion distribution.
Astrocytes, together with endothelial cells and pericytes of the brain microvessels, can form the blood-brain barrier (BBB). This physical diffusion barrier restricts the exchange of most molecules between blood and the brain. Astrocytes can also regulate cerebral blood flow by the K⁺ siphoning mechanism, releasing K⁺ onto blood vessels in response to neuronal activity. There is some abundant evidence showed that astrocytes are actively involved in forming and refining neural networks. In addition, astrocytes are also involved in the refinement of the neural network by synaptic pruning, the elimination of extra synapses to increase the precision and efficiency of neural circuits.
Brain lipid-binding protein (BLBP) is a verified astrocyte progenitor marker and detected by the expression pattern of brain BLBP in radial glia (RG) cells. Later, during development, BLBP expression became restricted to astrocyte progenitors and downregulated in astrocytes. The glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) expressed during CNS development is one of the most commonly used astrocyte markers and becomes restricted to astrocytes lineage. Paired box 6 (PAX6) is an established NPC marker widely expressed in the radial glial cells and plays an important role in maintaining the NPC population, lineage commitment, and gliogenesis. It has been shown that differentiation of astrocytes is triggered by cytokines of leukemia inhibitory factors family such as interleukin-6(IL-6), leukemia inhibitor factor (LIF), ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) or corticotrophin-1 (CT-1), and others such as transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-β1), bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), or pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP).
Fig.1 Origin of human astrocytes from the developing neuroectodermal tube toward mature phase. (Chandrasekaran, 2016)
Diseases Related to Astrocyte
More and more growing evidence implicates that glia, particularly astrocytes, has important roles in neurological and psychiatric diseases. Although the full contribution of astrocytes to neurological disease remains unresolved, astrocyte cell-autonomous deficits have been implicated in various neurological disorders that arise from a complex combination of abnormalities in either neurons, glial cells, or immune cells. The diseases related to astrocyte functions include human neurological diseases, containing diverse neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., AD, ALS, Parkinson's disease, and spinocerebellar ataxia) and neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., Alexander's disease, Autism spectrum disorders, Epilepsy, and Rhett syndrome). Recent data suggest that early stages of neurodegenerative disease, for example, are associated with loss of synaptic connectivity, imbalances in neurotransmitter homeostasis, leading to neuronal death probably through increased excitotoxicity in later stages. Therefore, to understand the principles of neurological diseases, stem cell-derived neuroglia could serve as a promising tool for creating in vivo-like cellular models for neurological disorders such as ALS, AxD where patients' neuronal tissue is highly inaccessible.
Astrocyte Differentiation Service
Given the unique biology of human astrocytes, it is critical that improved in vitro systems be established to enable the study of human astrocyte function in health and disease. Neural progenitor cells (NPCs) have a more limited self-renewal capacity and behave as transit-amplifying cells that expand the number of newly differentiated cells due to their higher proliferation rate than the more quiescent stem cells. The generation of astrocytes derived from NPCs opens up a new area for studying neurologic diseases in vitro; these models could be exploited to identify and validate potential drugs by detecting adverse effects in the early stages of drug development.
With more than ten years of experience, Creative Biolabs' high-quality standard and specific expertise in the ex vivo models have been widely recognized. Currently, Creative Biolabs offers a rapid and robust platform for the differentiation of highly pure populations of astrocytes with defined maturity status and phenotypic properties from stem cells via an NPC intermediate. Our protocol is a reproducible, straightforward, and rapid method to generate astrocyte populations that can be used to study neuropsychiatric disorders. Our ability to purify and culture astrocytes could provide an excellent model system for future studies of blood-brain barrier development, understanding of pathomechanisms, and drug screening and testing.
Counting on decades of experience in neuroscience ex vivo models, Creative Biolabs has expanded its competence in custom neural differentiation services. Our scientists have deep know-how and expertise in astrocyte differentiation to provide a full range of services. Contact our team of experts to find out more about our services.
Chandrasekaran, A.; et al. Astrocyte differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells: new tools for neurological disorder research. Frontiers in cellular neuroscience. 2016, 10, 215.