Astrocytes play a major role in brain function and alterations in astrocyte function that contribute to the pathogenesis of many brain disorders. The astrocytes are attractive cellular targets for neuroprotection and brain tissue regeneration. Development of novel approaches to monitor and to control astroglial function is of great importance for further progress in basic neurobiology and in clinical neurology, as well as psychiatry. Recently developed advanced optogenetic and chemogenetic techniques enable precise stimulation of astrocytes in vitro and in vivo, which can be achieved by the expression of light-sensitive channels and receptors, or by expression of receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs. Optogenetic stimulation of astrocytes leads to dramatic changes in intracellular calcium concentrations and causes the release of gliotransmitters. Optogenetic and chemogenetic protocols for astrocyte activation aid in extracting novel information regarding the function of brain's neurovascular unit. This review summarizes current data obtained by this approach and discusses a potential mechanistic connection between astrocyte stimulation and changes in brain physiology.
- brain plasticity
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