Investigations into the transitions that occur during cellular specification, differentiation, maturation and disease responses have provided insights into understanding the mechanisms that underlie these altered states of reactivity and function.
Patel et al.,from the Center for Neuroregeneration and Department of Neurosurgery of the Houston Methodist Research Institute, Texas, USAsummarize current concepts in how astrocyte state transitions, termed ‘astroplasticity’, are regulated and also how this affects neural circuit function through extracellular signaling.
They postulate that a promising future approach towards enhancing functional repair after injury and disease would be to steer astrocytes away from an inhibitory response and towards one that is beneficial to neuroplasticity and neuroregeneration. Toward this goal, they discuss emerging biotechnological advancements, with a focus on human pluripotent stem cell bioengineering, which have high potential for effective manipulation and control of astroplasticity. Highlights include innovations in cellular transdifferentiation techniques, nanomedicine, organoid and 3D spheroid microcircuit development, and the use of biomaterials to influence the extracellular environment. Current barriers and future applications are also summarized in order to augment the design of future preclinical trials aimed towards astrocyte-targeted neuroregeneration with a concept termed ‘astrocellular therapeutics’ 1).