A team led by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, has directed human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells to become immature astrocytes in the laboratory (Krencik R et al. Nat Biotechnol. doi: 10.1038/nbt.1877 [published online ahead of print May 22, 2011]). This achievement could help scientists better understand the brain's most common cell, which plays important roles in such processes as regulating blood flow and protecting neurons. The cells are thought to be as important as neurons for brain function.
Hampton T. Growing Astrocytes. JAMA. 2011;306(1):30. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.911