Now in our 13th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Search the archive of over 4000 images

Star-shaped Support
15 March 2018

Star-shaped Support

Targeting 'zombie-like' brain cells could be a new avenue to treat Parkinson’s disease. This incurable condition affects around 10 million people globally, impairing their ability to move and walk. It begins when neurons in the brain that co-ordinate movement become damaged. These neurons are supported by star-shaped cells called astrocytes (top row, red). But astrocytes can harm the very cells they support, by entering a zombie-like state, called senescence. Astrocytes in senescence lose a specific protein (labelled green, bottom row). Nearby healthy cells retain this protein. The senescent astrocytes cause inflammation, damaging the critical movement neurons. Brain tissue taken from dead patients with Parkinson’s had elevated levels of senescent astrocytes. In this study, researchers stimulated astrocyte support cells in the brains of mice to enter senescence. These mice developed difficulty moving, as in Parkinson’s disease. But treating them with a drug to destroy senescent cells prevented the development of symptoms.

Written by Deborah Oakley

Published in Cell Reports, January 2018

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

Follow on Tumblr

Follow on Instagram

What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

Read More

BPoD is also available in Catalan at with translations by the University of Valencia.