Researchers discover neuroprotective role of immune cell

A type of immune cell widely believed to exacerbate chronic adult brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis (MS), can actually protect the brain from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and may slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, according to Cleveland Clinic research published today in the online journal Nature Communications.

The research team, led by Bruce Trapp, PhD, Chair of the Department of Neurosciences at Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute, found that microglia can help synchronize brain firing, which protects the brain from TBI and may help alleviate chronic . They provided the most detailed study and visual evidence of the mechanisms involved in that protection.

"Our findings suggest the innate immune system helps protect the brain after injury or during chronic disease, and this role should be further studied," Dr. Trapp said. "We could potentially harness the protective role of microglia to improve prognosis for patients with TBI and delay the progression of Alzheimer's disease, MS, and stroke. The methods we developed will help us further understand mechanisms of neuroprotection."

Microglias are primary responders to the brain after injury or during illness. While researchers have long believed that activated microglia cause harmful inflammation that destroys healthy , some speculate a more protective role. Dr. Trapp's team used an advanced technique called 3D electron microscopy to visualize the activation of microglia and subsequent events in animal models.

They found that when chemically activated, microglia migrate to inhibitory synapses, connections between brain cells that slow the firing of impulses. They dislodge the synapse (called "synaptic stripping"), thereby increasing neuronal firing and leading to a cascade of events that enhance survival of brain cells.

Trapp is internationally known for his work on mechanisms of neurodegeneration and repair in . His past research has included investigation of the cause of neurological disability in MS patients, cellular mechanisms of brain repair in , and the molecular biology of myelination in the central and peripheral nervous systems.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Migrating stem cells possible new focus for stroke treatment

May 27, 2014

Two years ago, a new type of stem cell was discovered in the brain that has the capacity to form new cells. The same research group at Lund University in Sweden has now revealed that these stem cells, which are located in ...

New research findings on the brain's guardian cells

Apr 24, 2013

The central nervous system's mop-up crew, microglia, play an important role in protecting the brain against disease and injury. A research group at Lund University in Sweden has now developed a method that makes it possible ...

Recommended for you

Structured education program beneficial for anaphylaxis

Nov 21, 2014

(HealthDay)—A structured education intervention improves knowledge and emergency management for patients at risk for anaphylaxis and their caregivers, according to a study published online Nov. 19 in Allergy.

Every step you take: STING pathway key to tumor immunity

Nov 20, 2014

A recently discovered protein complex known as STING plays a crucial role in detecting the presence of tumor cells and promoting an aggressive anti-tumor response by the body's innate immune system, according to two separate ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.