The Glial Man A Break in Neuroscientific Thinking
Yves Agid is professor emeritus of neurology and cellular biology at the Université Paris-VI. Member of the Académie des sciences, founding member of the ICM, he is a specialist in clinical and biological research in neurodegenerative diseases. Pierre Magistretti, physician and neuroscientist, is professor at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the Université de Lausanne, and at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). He is one of the pioneers of research in glia. His world-renowned work has revealed glia’s role in the energy metabolism of the brain, in memory, and in neurodegenerative diseases.
Neurons represent only a portion of the cells of the human brain. Another portion is made up of glial cells. It was long thought that they simply served as supporting tissue, but it has recently been discovered that this is not the case.
The leap forward that has occurred in just a few years in the identification of the physiological role these cells play in the production of our behaviors is absolutely spectacular. It is now understood that no mental function (learning, memory, circadian rhythms, sleep, emotions, consciousness, behavior) is possible without these glial cells, and more specifically without astrocytes. Similarly, no neurological or psychiatric pathology (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, stroke, etc.) can now be understood without considering a dysfunction of these cells.
A break in neuroscientific thinking; a revolution in an understanding of many diseases of the nervous system; great progress to be anticipated to improve the fate of patients and find new medications.