Liver disease is one of the major chronic disabilities around the world. It is known that global casualties are increasing because of virus C infection, alcohol consumption, or non-alcoholic circumstances. One of the main derived comorbidities of liver disease is the hepatic encephalopathy (HE), a severe neuropsychological syndrome derived from the acute or chronic liver disease. A key feature accounting for HE symptoms in cirrhotic patients is brain edema, which is triggered by hyperammonemia. In basal conditions, ammonia can be metabolized in the central nervous system (CNS) by astrocytes, which synthetize glutamine using ammonia and glutamate as substrates. In hyperammonemic conditions, astrocytes synthetize large amounts of glutamine generating a hyperosmotic condition, inducing these cells to become swollen in shape, invoking the characteristic symptom clinically manifested in patients with HE, as brain edema; this condition is regulated by water channels called aquaporins (AQPs) and by other molecules such as myoinositol. Experimental evidence suggests that some small non-coding RNAs may regulate AQPs expression both in vivo an in vitro and that some pharmacological interventions improve cognitive impairment in cirrhotic patients. It is undeniable that astrocytes and the different signaling pathways beneath its plasma membrane play a crucial role in liver disease-derived HE and represent some of the novel pharmacological targets to treat comorbidities of the liver disease.
Part of the book: Astrocyte