Astrocytes are the support cells of the central nervous system maintaining the health of neurons and their synaptic connections. Astrocytes are also the first responders to central nervous system damage and are critical in the initiation of neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration. We recently identified the marker CD44 as specifically upregulated in astrocytes in regions of targeted protein-misfolding induced neurodegeneration due to prion infection (Bradford 2019). The CD44 protein may be expressed as numerous splice variants, we observed upregulation of splice variant 6 (CD44v6) in prion infected astrocytes. CD44 and splice variants 3, 6 and 10 have been previously reported in Alzheimer disease patients, with data indicating different splice variants may play different roles and arise in differing cell types, e.g. CD44v10 expression by neurones is potentially neuroprotective (Pinner 2017).
Astrocytes are the support cells of the central nervous system, critical for the support of brain cells and their connections, and the first responders to damage. We have recently identified a marker that identifies astrocyte response linked to neurodegeneration and would like to characterise this further across different neurodegenerative disease models as well as in human cases. Understanding how astrocytes respond to damage provides us with a new target for therapeutic and intervention strategies which may be broadly applicable across all neurodegenerative disorders.