Glial Replacement as a Therapeutic Strategy for Neurodegenerative and Neuropsychiatric Disorders: Insights from in vivo Studies


Glial cells, once considered merely supporting actors in the brain, have now emerged as crucial players in the pathogenesis of various neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders.

The progressive understanding of glial pathology’s contribution to these conditions has prompted researchers to explore the potential of allogeneic glial replacement as a promising therapeutic strategy.

This article delves into recent in vivo experiments that shed light on the relative fitness of healthy glial progenitor cells (GPCs) compared to those affected by disease or aging, aiming to uncover the viability of glial cell transplantation for treating conditions like Huntington’s disease (HD).


We generated chimeric mice that had human GPCs transplanted into their brains. We then challenged these mice with either WT or HD hGPCs. We used a variety of methods to assess the relative fitness of the different hGPC populations, including cell counting, gene expression analysis, and immunohistochemistry.


We found that WT hGPCs outcompeted and ultimately replaced the already-resident HD glial progenitors. This was evident from the following observations:

  • WT hGPCs had a higher proliferation rate than HD hGPCs.
  • WT hGPCs had a higher survival rate than HD hGPCs.
  • WT hGPCs were able to migrate and colonize more brain regions than HD hGPCs.
  • WT hGPCs were able to differentiate into functional astrocytes and oligodendrocytes.

Gene expression analysis revealed that WT hGPCs expressed a transcriptional signature characteristic of competitively dominant cells. This signature included genes involved in cell proliferation, survival, migration, and differentiation.

**Immunohistochemistry showed that WT hGPCs were able to replace the already-resident HD glia. This was evident from the following observations:

  • WT hGPCs were found in regions of the brain that were previously occupied by HD glia.
  • HD glia were no longer found in these regions.
  • The Role of Glial Pathology in HD and the Quest for Allogeneic Glial Replacement

Huntington’s disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder with well-described involvement of glial pathology. This prompted researchers to investigate the possibility of replacing diseased glial cells with healthy ones as a potential treatment approach. To assess the viability of this strategy, the research focused on comparing the relative fitness of wild-type (WT) GPCs with those affected by HD and aging in vivo.

  • Competing GPCs: The Triumph of Youth and the Recapitulation of Developmental Cell Competition

In the experiments, WT GPCs were introduced into the brains already containing HD GPCs. Surprisingly, the WT cells outcompeted and ultimately replaced the resident HD glial progenitors. This selective expansion of healthy cells involved the active elimination of the resident HD glia and was further supported by the proliferative advantage of healthy donor cells over their diseased counterparts. scRNA-seq analysis revealed that the dominance of healthy WT GPCs over HD glia was associated with a transcriptional signature characteristic of competitively dominant cells, similar to invertebrate systems.

  • The Significance of Cellular Youth in Competitive Success

A fascinating observation was made when considering the relative ages of resident and newly introduced GPCs. Young WT GPCs, when transplanted into adult brains that had been chimerized with older WT GPCs, also outcompeted and replaced their older counterparts. This led to the conclusion that cellular youth is a critical determinant of competitive success and the ability of donor GPCs to replace the host’s population.

  • Transcriptional Control of Competitive Dominance

The transplanted young WT GPCs exhibited a gene expression signature associated with a dominant competitor phenotype in vivo, whether challenged by older HD or isogenic WT GPCs. This observation suggested that cellular youth plays a more significant role in competitive fitness than the disease genotype. Genes involved in the YAP1 and MYC pathways were found to be important regulators of competition among GPCs, potentially offering promising targets for enhancing the competitive advantage of donor cells in the brain.

  • Implications for Neurodegenerative and Neuropsychiatric Disorders

The competitive replacement of resident glia by younger and healthier GPCs observed in the experiments reflects the dynamic nature of cell-cell competition in the adult brain. This process closely resembles the competitive events occurring during brain development, where successive waves of GPCs compete, leading to the elimination of less fit cells.

The therapeutic implications of these findings are substantial, suggesting that dysfunctional glial cells in diseased and aging brains might be effectively replaced by intracerebral delivery of allogeneic GPCs. This potential treatment approach could be valuable for various neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders characterized by glial pathology.


The study’s findings open new avenues for potential therapeutic interventions in neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders by targeting glial replacement. The transplantation of healthy glial progenitor cells to replace diseased or aging glia appears promising in animal models. However, it is essential to acknowledge the limitations of the model system and consider the unique challenges posed by the human brain’s complex environment.

As researchers move toward translating these findings into clinical applications, careful consideration of the potential risks and benefits will be crucial to realize the full potential of glial replacement therapies in treating brain disorders.

In deep…..

The Impact of SARS-CoV-2 on Glial Cells and Brain Function: Unraveling the Neurological Consequences

Since the emergence of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic, its primary respiratory manifestations have dominated the spotlight. However, mounting evidence suggests that this virus can also affect the central nervous system (CNS), leading to various neurological symptoms and complications. Among the key players in the CNS are glial cells, a diverse group of non-neuronal cells that support and modulate neuronal function. In this article, we delve into the impact of SARS-CoV-2 on glial cells and how these cellular alterations may contribute to changes in brain function and neurological outcomes.

Neurological Symptoms and COVID-19: Beyond the Respiratory System

Initially recognized as a respiratory illness, COVID-19 has since revealed its ability to cause neurological symptoms. Patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 have reported a wide range of neurological manifestations, including anosmia, ageusia, headaches, dizziness, confusion, and even strokes. Such observations have sparked interest in understanding the mechanisms underlying these neurological effects.

The Blood-Brain Barrier and SARS-CoV-2 Entry

To reach the CNS, the virus must overcome the blood-brain barrier (BBB), a specialized barrier that separates the bloodstream from the brain’s extracellular fluid. Recent studies have shown that SARS-CoV-2 can potentially breach the BBB through several routes, including infecting endothelial cells and disrupting tight junction proteins, leading to increased permeability. Once inside the CNS, the virus may directly interact with glial cells and neurons.

Glial Cells: The Guardians of the CNS

Glial cells are vital for maintaining the CNS’s homeostasis and supporting neuronal function. The two primary types of glial cells are astrocytes and microglia. Astrocytes play essential roles in providing nutrients, regulating ion balance, and participating in synaptic transmission. Microglia act as the immune cells of the brain, surveilling and responding to pathogens and inflammation.

SARS-CoV-2 Interaction with Glial Cells

Studies have demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 can infect and replicate within glial cells, including astrocytes and microglia. The viral presence in these cells can trigger a cascade of immune responses, leading to the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and reactive oxygen species. This phenomenon, known as the cytokine storm, can contribute to neuroinflammation and subsequent damage to neurons and glia.

Neuroinflammation and Glial-Mediated Damage

Excessive neuroinflammation, driven by the activation of glial cells, has been linked to various neurological disorders. In the context of COVID-19, neuroinflammation caused by infected glial cells can lead to the disruption of neural circuits, synaptic dysfunction, and neuronal death. These alterations may underlie the neurological symptoms observed in COVID-19 patients.

Potential Mechanisms of Glial-Mediated Damage

Astrocytes, in response to SARS-CoV-2 infection, may release glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter, in excess, leading to excitotoxicity and neuronal damage. Additionally, activated microglia may phagocytose healthy synapses, further exacerbating synaptic dysfunction. The combination of these mechanisms can significantly impact brain function.

Long-Term Consequences of SARS-CoV-2 on Brain Function

Beyond the acute phase of infection, the long-term consequences of glial cell involvement in COVID-19 need to be addressed. Evidence suggests that persistent neuroinflammation can lead to chronic neurological conditions, such as cognitive impairment, mood disorders, and even neurodegenerative diseases.

Therapeutic Approaches Targeting Glial Cells

Understanding the role of glial cells in SARS-CoV-2-associated neurological complications opens up potential therapeutic avenues. Targeting glial cell activation and inflammation may help mitigate the neurological consequences of COVID-19 and promote brain repair and recovery.

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