New research findings on the brain's guardian cells

April 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 to follow the behaviour of these support cells at close quarters. Increased knowledge about the specific role of microglia could open the door to new research avenues on several different neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease and stroke.

Researcher Johan Jakobsson and his colleagues have now published their results in Nature Communications.

"At present, researchers know very little about exactly how microglia work. At the same time, there is a lot of curiosity and high hopes among brain researchers that greater understanding of microglia could lead to entirely new drug development strategies for various ", says Johan Jakobsson, research group leader at the Division of Molecular Neurogenetics at Lund University.

What the researchers have now succeeded in identifying is a deviation in the structure of the microglia cells, which makes it possible to visualise them and study their behaviour. By inserting a luminescent protein controlled by a microscopic molecule, microRNA-9, the researchers can now distinguish the microglia and monitor their function over time in the brains of rats and mice.

It has long been known that microglia form the first line of defence of the immune system in diseases of the brain. They move quickly to the affected area and release an arsenal of molecules that protect the and clear away damaged tissue.

New research also suggests that microglia not only guard the nerve cells but also play an important role in their basic function.

"This represents a real step forward in technological development. Now we can view microglia in a way that has not been possible before. We and our colleagues now hope to be able to use this technique to study the role of the in different , for example Parkinson's disease and stroke, in which microglia are believed to play an important role", explains Johan Jakobsson.

Explore further: Study examines role of microglial cells as both defenders and fighters in the nervous system

More information: Akerblom, M. et al. Visualization and genetic modification of resident brain microglia using lentiviral vectors regulated by microRNA-9, Nature Communications, April 2013. www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v4/n4/full/ncomms2801.html

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Mouse teeth providing new insights into tissue regeneration

April 27, 2017

Researchers hope to one day use stem cells to heal burns, patch damaged heart tissue, even grow kidneys and other transplantable organs from scratch. This dream edges closer to reality every year, but one of the enduring ...

Dentistry research ID's novel marker for left-handedness

April 27, 2017

Individuals with a slender lower face are about 25 percent more likely to be left-handed. This unexpected finding was identified in 13,536 individuals who participated in three national surveys conducted in the United States.

0 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.