Questionable Calcium

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Science  05 Mar 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5970, pp. 1212-1213
DOI: 10.1126/science.1187420

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Astrocytes constitute the major glial cells of the mammalian central nervous system, but they were long regarded as passive elements, providing only structural and nutritional support to neurons. Over the past 25 years, another view has emerged in which astrocytes directly affect neuron function. Just as a neuron releases molecules to signal to another neuron (at a junction called the synapse), astrocytes also transmit molecules to affect neuronal communication, and it is thought that the same release mechanism is used (16). However, conflicting data continue to raise debate about this view, including the contradictory results of mouse studies reported recently (7, 8) and by Agulhon et al. on page 1250 of this issue (9). Can this controversy be resolved?