The functional weakening of the CNS that occurs with aging and age-related neurodegenerative disorders has been partially attributed to a decline in mitochondrial function. In particular, it has been demonstrated that oxidative damage occurs to mitochondrial DNA in elderly human brains. Recently, it has been shown that mito-chondrial DNA is particularly sensitive to damage that accumulates due to the loss of protective histones, the reduction in repair systems, and the vicinity of the internal mitochondrial membrane to active oxygen species. The hypothesis that free radicals are involved in the weakening of the mitochondrial function has been confirmed by recent discoveries, that is, the fact that the administration of free radical scavengers such as extract of Ginkgo Biloba (Egb761) improves the function of the brain and liver in elderly animals. Astrocytes are interconnecting cells between the neurons and the surrounding connective tissue (fibroblasts, mesenchymal cells, and endothelial cells). Changes to these cells induce modifications to the intercellular relationships and, eventually, to the nervous function. It has been shown that astrocytes are resistant to oxidative stress due to their high antioxidant content and their ability to regenerate glutathione and ascorbate.
Astrocytes therefore act as neuronal protectors defending the neurons against free radicals.
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