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Parkinson's disease is a common neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the progressive loss of the dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta. The loss of these neurons is associated with a glial response composed mainly of activated microglial cells and, to a lesser extent, of reactive astrocytes. This glial response may be the source of trophic factors and can protect against reactive oxygen species and glutamate. Aside from these beneficial effects, the glial response can mediate a variety of deleterious events related to the production of reactive species, and pro-inflammatory prostaglandin and cytokines. This article reviews the potential protective and deleterious effects of glial cells in the substantia nigra pars compacta of Parkinson's disease.

(C) 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.