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Overlooked cells hold keys to brain organization, disease, study shows

Brain disease scientists may need to look beyond nerve cells and start paying attention to the star-shaped cells known as 'astrocytes,' because they play specialized roles in the development and maintenance of nerve circuits, and may contribute to a wide range of disorders, according to a new study. The researchers discovered in mice that a particular form of astrocyte within the spinal cord secretes a protein needed for survival of the nerve circuitry that controls reflexive movements. This discovery is the first demonstration that different types of astrocytes exist to support development and survival of distinct nerve circuits at specific locations within the central nervous system.
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