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Astrocytes Belly Up to the Appetite Control Table

06:55 EDT 19 Oct 2016 | Genetic Engineering News

Neurons do not act alone in regulating appetite. They have help from glial cells, structural support elements that have, in recent years, been implicated in important brain functions. Now that they are known to enhance appetite when activated, and to suppress it when deactivated, glial cells in the brain—more specifically, astrocytes in the hypothalamus—may point to new targets for drugs against obesity and other appetite-related disorders. Astrocytes and other glial cells make up about half of the cells in the brain, and they have been known to play many supporting roles, including cushioning neurons and helping them form connections with one another. Glial cells are also increasingly being recognized for their abilities to modulate brain functions, as well as for their roles in neurodegenerative disorders. Yet glial cells remain difficult to study because scientists haven't developed many techniques for silencing or stimulating these cells, as they have for ...

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