Nedergaard Laboratory: Glial Therapeutics – University of Copenhagen

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Nedergaard Laboratory: Glial Therapeutics

Welcome to the Division of Glial Disease and Therapeutics

Research Overview


The Division of Glial Disease and Therapeutics employs a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach to the study of brain function in the healthy and diseased nervous system. For over two centuries, the study of brain function has been dedicated to extracting the importance of neurons – cells that have long been known to convey and receive information that links our sensory experience to the world around us. The study of neuronal function has been instrumental in guiding our understanding of neural physiology and clinical neurology. However, the neuronal paradigm of studying brain function has left us with major limitations in our understanding of how the brain translates basic stimuli to higher order cognitive functions. Furthermore, we have yet to establish treatments for many of the most common neurological disorders, including neurodegenerative diseases, stroke, and traumatic injury of the head and spinal cord.

Research in our laboratory has been dedicated to deciphering the role of neuroglia: cell types that constitute half of the entire cell population of the brain and spinal cord, but which historically have received little attention. Astrocytes in particular (the most prevalent type of neuroglia in the central nervous system) have been considered as simply the scaffolding for neurons, structurally supporting neural networks, providing metabolic substrates, and facilitating waste removal. Work over the past decade suggests a dramatically different and more active role for astrocytes in the brain, one in which they dynamically contribute to and regulate neuronal activity. Understanding the contribution of neuroglia to brain function remains an active and open pursuit in science, holding major implications for developing targeted therapies to neurological disease.

See all Nedergaard Group publications.

Lab Focuses



The last 20 years have witnessed a dramatic departure from the classical thinking: neurons are no longer believed to be the sole substrate of higher brain function and deciphering the role of neuroglia as active contributors to coordinated network activity has emerged as an exciting frontier in the study of neuroscience. Read more...

Throughout most of the body, a complex system of lymphatic vessels is responsible for cleansing the tissues of potentially harmful metabolic waste products, accumulations of soluble proteins and excess interstitial fluid. But astonishingly, the body’s most sensitive tissue –the central nervous system – lacks a lymphatic vasculature. What then accounts for the efficient waste clearance that must occur in order for the neural tissue of our brains to function properly? Read more...

Sophisticated cognitive abilities, such as an unparalleled capacity for learning, language, abstract expression, and metacognition are said to set humans apart from animals. But what accounts for these differences? Classically, interspecies variation in intelligence has been attributed to neurons. However, comparisons between the brains of different species indicate that the proportional make up and sophistication of a different, historically underappreciated, type of brain cell increases as a function of increased cognitive capability. This project is a collaboration between the Goldman Lab and the Nedergaard Lab. Read more...

When neurons undergo periods of intense activity, they demand oxygen and a replenishment of their depleted metabolic reserves. The question of how the brain knows exactly which regions to supply extra blood and nutrients to, a concept termed functional hyperemia, is one that underlies the very basis of human cognition and consciousness. Yet, despite decades of extensive study and its ubiquitous relevance to our moment-to-moment experience, it is a question that we are just now beginning to shed light on. Read more...

Frank insult to the central nervous system (CNS), in the form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) or cerebral infarction (stroke), exposes the brain and spinal cord’s distinct cellular populations to an environmental catastrophe. Our interest in the role of astrocytes following CNS injuries stems from the fact that they constitute therapeutic targets that occupy prime real-estate: by extending processes that interface with blood vessels and neuronal synapses, as well as forming physically coupled networks with other astrocytes, they effectively couple nutritional support with information transfer and processing. Read more...

Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating assault to the central nervous system (CNS) that often results in permanent neurologic impairment, intense personal suffering and a disruption to essentially every aspect of life. An overwhelming majority of patients that suffer spinal cord injuries also develop chronic neuropathic pain syndromes that often persist indefinitely. Yet, despite high prevalence and decades of intensive study, to date, damage sustained from spinal cord injury is largely irreversible. Read more...

Chronic pain disrupts the lives of over one and a half billion people around the world, upsetting their sleeping habits, limiting their functional capabilities and causing severe emotional trauma. However, none of the current medications effectively treat chronic pain and many are accompanied by unacceptable side-effects, such as slowed cognition, gastrointestinal complications, and in certain cases of prolonged use, a paradoxical hyper-algesic effect. Part of the problem may be that current treatment paradigms are based on a fundamentally incomplete understanding of chronic pain’s neurobiological basis. Read more...

Since its inception in China around 2,000 B.C., acupuncture has been a popular modality of pain treatment in Eastern medical practices. The practice has since spread around the world and is commonly utilized as a therapeutic alternative to Western medicine. The US National Institutes of Health currently recognize that acupuncture can be a potent therapeutic alternative to conventional treatments for chronic pain. Read more...