Astrocytes appear to be involved in almost all aspects of brain function. Scientists want to know more about how gliotransmitters can inhibit, stimulate, or fine-tune the action potentials fired by neurons. But astrocytes may even do more.
There is growing evidence that astrocytes can alter how a neuron is built by directing where to make synapses or dendritic spines. They can also attract new cells (like immune cells and perhaps even adult neural stem cells) to repair damage.
Knowing more about astrocytes will also shed light on diseases in which communication between astrocytes and neurons is altered, including Alzheimer's disease, AIDS, brain cancer, and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease).