Astrocytes classically have been thought of as non-excitable, support cells in the CNS. Recent studies demonstrate that astrocytes play an important role in normal neuronal homeostasis and function and are instrumental in the pathophysiology of certain neurotoxicities. Astrocyte functions include production of growth factors, modulation of synaptic activity, blood brain barrier contributions, metabolic regulators for normal neuronal function, regulation of extracellular ion homeostasis, and maintenance of extracellular glutamate at appropriate physiological concentrations.
Currently we are studying the effects of selected metabolic and toxic disorders on astrocyte function. Techniques utilized in the laboratory include protein extraction, western blotting, immunohistochemistry, RNA extraction, and PCR.