Principles of astrogliopathology: Challenging common mythologies

Neuroglia contribute to the pathophysiology of all neurological diseases. Conceptually, such contributions can be primary, when pathological forms of neuroglial cells drive neuropathology, or secondary, when neuroglia respond to pathological lesions of varying aetiology. In contrast to neurones, neuroglial cells are capable of mounting various forms of defensive responses to pathology, collectively known as reactive gliosis. Reactive gliosis is generally protective and allostatic, aimed as it is at the preservation of nervous tissue function and integrity. Dystrophic changes in neuroglia contribute to neuropathology through the loss of homeostatic and defensive functions. Astrocytopathies cover another group of pathological changes manifested by the emergence of aberrant glial forms that drive the neuropathology. Finally, neuroglial cells can undergo degeneration and death, which further weakens nervous system defences and exacerbates the progression and outcome of neurological disorders.


Professor Alexei Verkhratsky, PhD, D.Sc, Member of Academia Europaea (2003), Vice-President of Academia Europea (2016), Member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina (2013), Member of Real Academia Nacional de Farmacia of Spain (2012), Member of Polish Academy of Sciences (2017), Corresponding Member of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (2019); member of Polska Akademia Umiejętności (2021); Member of The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (2012), Honorary Professor and Chair, Chairman of the Academic Committee of the Key Laboratory of Sichuan Province for Acupuncture & Chronobiology at Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (2018), Distinguished professor of Jinan University at Guangzhou (2018); Honorary professor of China Medical University at Shenyang (2019). Alexei was born in 1961 in Stanislaw, Galicia, Western Ukraine; he graduated from Kiev Medical Institute in 1983, and received PhD (1986) and D.Sc. (1993) in Physiology from Bogomoletz Institute of Physiology also in Kiev. In the period between 1989 and 1995 he was visitor scientist in Heidelberg and Gottingen, and between 1995 and 1999 he was a Research Scientist at Max Delbrück Centre of Molecular Medicine in Berlin. He joined the Division of Neuroscience, School of Biological Sciences in Manchester in September 1999, became a Professor of Neurophysiology in 2002 and served as Head of the said Division from 2002 to 2004. From 2007 to 2010 he was appointed as a visitor professor/Head of Department of Cellular and Molecular Neurophysiology at the Institute of Experimental Medicine, Academy of Sciences of Check Republic. Alexei also serves as a Research Professor of the Ikerbasque (Basque Research Council) in Bilbao, where, from 2012, he acts as Adjunct Scientific Director of the Achucarro Basque Centre for Neuroscience; from 2011 to 2017 he was as a Honorary Visitor Professor at Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan. Alexei is the editor-in-chief of Cell Calcium, and member of editorial boards of many journals including Pflugers Archiv, Cell Death & Disease Acta Physilogica, Purinergic Signalling, Advances in Neurobiology &c. In 2007 he, together with Arthur Butt published the first ever Textbook on Glial Neurobiology, and in 2013 he, again in co-authorship with Arthur Butt published a handbook Glial Physiology and Pathophysiology, which has rapidly become the reference book in the field.

Alexei Verkhratsky is an internationally recognised scholar in the field of cellular neurophysiology, best known for his contributions to our knowledge of the physiology and pathophysiology of neuroglia. He was one of the first to discover the specific expression of neurotransmitter receptors in astrocytes and their activation in situ by physiological stimulation. He demonstrated (with H. Kettenmann) matching patterns of neuronal and glial receptors, thus providing the basis for the concept of active and reciprocal neuronal-glial communications. He demonstrated that these receptors are connected to calcium-mediated signalling cascades, which led to the important concept of glial calcium excitability. Subsequently he developed the concept of sodium ions as a specific signalling molecule controlling local homeostatic responses of astrocytes. These discoveries have made a major contribution to the development of a new doctrine of the fundamental role of neuroglia in brain function. Verkhratsky also pioneered the emerging field of neurogliopathology, having characterised astroglial asthenia and paralysis as key pathogenetic steps in age-dependent neurodegenerative diseases. In a series of highly cited conceptual papers he outlined basic principles of glial physiology and pathophysiology, which significantly influenced this rapidly developing area of neuroscience.

Scientometry: Prof Verkhratsky authored 7 and edited 10 books; he published ~ 600 papers and chapters. His papers were cited ~35500 times, H-index 98 (Scopus, 2022).
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