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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder, characterized by the degeneration of upper and lower motor neurons of the motor cortex, brainstem, and ventral horn of the spinal cord. The role of glial cells in the onset and progression of ALS is increasingly being recognized. Dysfunctional astrocytes, with an atypical and neurotoxic phenotype, in the cerebral cortex and the spinal cord promote neuroinflammation and motor neuron degeneration. Indeed, cortical and spinal cord astrocytes from SOD1G93A (mSOD1) mice are neurotoxic, develop early deficits, and lose their neuro-supportive properties before disease onset. This chapter discusses the contribution of dysfunctional cortical and spinal cord astrocytes in the development and progression of ALS. Differences in astrocyte heterogeneity and reactivity, calcium signaling, neurotransmitters, and in paracrine signaling mechanisms along with implications for novel therapies in ALS are addressed.
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