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International Symposium: The role of astrocytes and microglia cells in neurodegeneration and cancer

Life and Matter Sciences | Salamanca, May 30 and 31, 2018


Glia cells have been traditionally considered supportive cells within the nervous system. However, the studies carried out over the last few decades have demonstrated that these cells establish active interactions with neurons and are involved in most of the nervous system pathologies. Indeed, in these diseases a reaction of astrocytes and microglia, termed reactive gliosis, is commonly observed. Evidence from the latest research strongly suggests that reactive astrocytes and activated microglia are relevant targets for therapeutic strategies.

Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease or others caused by neuronal death, such as stroke are a major social issue, mainly because the aging population is increasing. Up to now, most studies related to these diseases have focused on neurons as the cells directly responsible for the deleterious effects of these diseases. However, today the knowledge of the role played by astrocytes and microglial cells, both in health and in neurodegenerative diseases, is being translated into proposals of innovative strategies based on these cells as therapeutic targets.

In addition to cancer cells, brain tumors contain a variety of different non-tumoral cells, including reactive astrocytes and microglia cells that constitute their microenvironment. Among other mechanisms, tumoral cells communicate with astrocytes through gap junctions transferring signals that activate astrocytes promoting tumoral growth. Microglial cells or brain-resident macrophages, considered as the brain immune system, account for up to 30% of cells within the brain tumor and they can promote or reduce tumor progression depending on the microglia phenotype. Last studies suggest that microenvironment cells should be considered as targets for the development of new treatments against tumors, including brain tumors.

More than one hundred years ago Santiago Ramón y Cajal wrote: "The assumption that the relationship between neuroglia fibers with neuronal cells is similar to the relationship between connective tissue with muscle or glandular tissue is the main obstacle that researchers need to eliminate in order to obtain a rational concept regarding the function of the glia cells".

This International Symposium will be held at the Institute of Neuroscience Castilla y León (INCYL) of the University of Salamanca, which is celebrating this year its 800th anniversary. The objective is to discuss the current state of our scientific knowledge on this cutting edge scientific area and to propose applications for the development of new therapies against neurodegenerative diseases and brain tumours. 

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