The focus of our research is to clarify the involvement of astrocytes in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases and to investigate their therapeutic potential. Although, Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia worldwide, there are currently no treatments available that limit the neurodegeneration or slow down the disease progression. Hence, innovative therapeutic approaches are clearly required. Our results indicate that astrocytes play a central role in Alzheimer’s disease pathology. More specifically, we have shown that astrocytes engulf large amounts of aggregated amyloid-beta and tau, but then store, rather than degrade the ingested material. This incomplete degradation results in severe cellular stress, spreading of pathogenic protein aggregates and inflammation, which could all be of relevance for Alzheimer’s disease progression. By identifying ways to reduce astrocyte-mediated Aβ and tau pathology, we hope to pave the way for novel treatment strategies. To be able to study the impact of human astrocytes in the propagation of amyloid-beta and tau pathology in detail, we have development advanced cell culture models of Alzheimer’s disease, based on co-cultures and monocultures of iPSC-derived astrocytes, microglia and neurons. In parallel with our Alzheimer’s disease projects, we are investigating the impact of astrocytes in Parkinson’s disease, focusing on chronic inflammation, glial cross-talk and cell-to-cell spreading of alfa-synuclein pathology.
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