Astrocytes, also known as Astroglial cells, are star-shaped glial cells in the brain and spinal cord. Astrocytes are a type of Macroglia Glial cell and are one of several types of Glial Cells that collectively form the Glia.
Glial cells are non-neuronal cells that maintain homeostasis, form myelin, and provide support and protection for neurons in the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system.
It is estimated that astrocyte proportion varies in the brain by region and ranges from 20% to 40% of all glia.
The astrocytes perform many important functions in the brain:
- Biochemical support of endothelial cells that form the blood–brain barrier
- Responsible for the delivery of nutrients to neurons
- Maintains extracellular ion balance, particularly potassium
- Repairs the brain and spinal cord following traumatic injuries and wounds
- Recycles neurotransmitters released during synaptic transmission, preventing neurons from becoming over-stimulated
- Acts as the “building-blocks” of the blood–brain barrier
- One of the types of Cells that produce Nerve Growth Factor (NGF)
- Produce the Estradiol 17-Beta form of Estradiol (an Estrogen) within the Brain
It is important to maintain the healthy functioning of the astrocytes in order to assure proper neurological function. Thus the goal is to enhance the functioning of astrocytes and develop astrocytes on a continuous basis.
One natural substance that has been identified to be effective in astrocyte development is the fatty acids in mustard seeds and mustard seed oil.
Mustard seeds and mustard seed oil has a high fatty acid profile. Mustard seed oil contains the following fatty acids:
- 60% monounsaturated fatty acids
- 21% polyunsaturated fats
- 12% saturated fats
A study from December 2007 published in Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology entitled Effect of fatty acids isolated from edible oils like mustard, linseed or coconut on astrocytes maturation examined the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) and its precursor alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, 18:3n-3), and their effect on astrocyte development.
The fatty acids from mustard seed oil caused significant morphogenesis of astrocytes in culture and increased the substantial growth in astrocytes. 1
The study highlights the contribution of specific dietary oils in facilitating astrocyte development that can have potential impact on human health. 2
This study illustrates the potential for astrocyte development and enhancing astrocyte functioning by consuming mustard seeds and/or mustard seed oil.
The Table below lists the other natural substances that have been identified as being able to enhance the function of astrocytes: