Glial cells (also known as glia or neuroglia) are structures which are found in large numbers throughout the nervous system, fulfilling multiple functions, such as regulating the synapses, providing structure, support and nutrition, contributing towards the immune response and tissue oxygenation. Knowledge regarding glial cells has increased during the last few years, since Virchow defined them as supporting connective tissue, followed by Ramón y Cajal who described them as tissue in themselves, until today when a first order physiological role has been recognised for them and a leading role in the appearance and progression of various pathological processes, primarily in the group of Neurodegenerative Diseases (ND).
The ND represents a group of pathologies which gradually cause the degeneration of nervous tissue, have a broad spectrum regarding their appearance and, in some cases, are the direct consequence of genetic alterations leading to physiological changes in the nervous system. The present article has thus been aimed at describing glial cells’ genetic interaction with ND through a systemic review of the pertinent literature. The mechanisms through which the different classes of glial cells become involved in the appearance of ND are poorly understood; however, evidence indicates that their role could be a critical factor in these pathologies’ appearance, regulation and chronicity, these being largely determined by different types of cellular interactions and interaction with the microenvironment. This review shows that ND genetics regarding glial cells’ cellular, molecular and genetic functioning represents a complex and understudied process; studying these factors could be a key step for ascertaining the origin of these pathologies, thereby leading to more effective therapies being developed.