Astroglial atrophy in Alzheimer’s disease

  • Alexei VerkhratskyEmail author
  • Jose Julio Rodrigues
  • Augustas Pivoriunas
  • Robert Zorec
  • Alexey Semyanov
Invited Review
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Invited Review


Astrocytes, a class of morphologically and functionally diverse primary homeostatic neuroglia, are key keepers of neural tissue homeostasis and fundamental contributors to brain defence in pathological contexts. Failure of astroglial support and defence facilitate the evolution of neurological diseases, which often results in aberrant synaptic transmission, neurodegeneration and death of neurones. In Alzheimer’s disease (AD), astrocytes undergo complex and multifaceted metamorphoses ranging from atrophy with loss of function to reactive astrogliosis with hypertrophy. Astroglial asthenia underlies reduced homeostatic support and neuroprotection that may account for impaired synaptic transmission and neuronal demise. Reactive astrogliosis which mainly develops in astrocytes associated with senile plaque is prominent at the early to moderate stages of AD manifested by mild cognitive impairment; downregulation of astrogliosis (reflecting astroglial paralysis) is associated with late stages of the disease characterised by severe dementia. Cell-specific therapies aimed at boosting astroglial supportive and defensive capabilities and preventing astroglial paralysis may offer new directions in preventing, arresting, or even curing AD-linked neurodegeneration.


Astrocytes Alzheimer’s disease Astroglial atrophy Astrogliosis Neurological diseases Neurodegeneration 


Funding information

AV and AS were supported by Volkswagen Stiftung research grant A115105; RZ by Slovenian Research Agency Research core funding no. P3 310 and projects no. J3 6790, no. J3 9266 and no. J3 7605. AS was supported by COMFI grant 17-00-00412 (K)/17-00-00409 from RFBR and ; AV and AP were supported by the Global Grant measure (No. 09.3.3-LMT-K-712-01-0082).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexei Verkhratsky
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jose Julio Rodrigues
    • 3
    • 4
  • Augustas Pivoriunas
    • 5
  • Robert Zorec
    • 6
    • 7
  • Alexey Semyanov
    • 8
    • 9
  1. 1.Faculty of Biology, Medicine and HealthThe University of ManchesterManchesterUK
  2. 2.Achucarro Center for Neuroscience, IKERBASQUEBasque Foundation for ScienceBilbaoSpain
  3. 3.BioCruces Health Research Institute, IKERBASQUEBasque Foundation for ScienceBilbaoSpain
  4. 4.Department of NeuroscienceThe University of the Basque Country UPV/EHUBarakaldoSpain
  5. 5.Department of Stem Cell BiologyState Research Institute Centre for Innovative MedicineVilniusLithuania
  6. 6.Medical Faculty, Institute of Pathophysiology, Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology and Molecular Cell PhysiologyUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia
  7. 7.Celica, BIOMEDICALLjubljanaSlovenia
  8. 8.Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic ChemistryRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia
  9. 9.Sechenov First Moscow State Medical UniversityMoscowRussia

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