In mammals, the brain is conserved in terms of shape, cellular constitution, and function. However, the human brain is more vulnerable to neurodegeneration, the main characteristic of aging diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Other mammals, such as dogs and monkeys, seem more resistant to neurodegeneration.
This project aims to answer the fundamental question: what makes the human brain more susceptible to neurodegeneration?
Astrocytes are star-shaped cells abundant in the human brain’s regions most vulnerable to neurodegeneration. Astrocytes were once thought to be secondary players to neurons, but they are now known to be essential for complex cognitive tasks. Based on these observations, we hypothesize that astrocytes play a role in the human brain’s vulnerability to neurodegeneration.
In this project, we will characterize astrocytes in different mammals to identify the molecular and cellular differences between human astrocytes and other mammals. This knowledge will help us to understand the causes of neurodegeneration in the human brain and to develop new treatments for these diseases.