May 7, 2019

Detailed brain map uncovers hidden immune cells that may be involved in neurodegenerative disorders

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

Brains contain a variety of immune cells that play an important role for brain function. A team led by Prof. Kiavash Movahedi (VIB Center for Inflammation Research at VUB) has developed a comprehensive cell atlas of the brain’s immune compartment. This revealed not only the striking diversity of brain macrophages, but also uncovered microglia where they were not expected. Remarkably, these previously unknown microglia showed a clear resemblance to microglia that are normally associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. The new insights are important for understanding the role of macrophages in healthy brain physiology and for developing future treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.

Macrophages in the brain were first discovered 100 years ago by the Spanish scientist P\xEDo del R\xEDo-Hortega. Most brain macrophages are known as . These cells are in close contact with neurons and are critical for the proper development and functioning of the brain. But beyond the microglia, brains house several other types of macrophages, many of which are relatively unknown.

Prof. Kiavash Movahedi (VIB Center for Inflammation Research, VUB), said, “While microglia are fairly well studied, other brain macrophages have remained quite enigmatic. We wanted to obtain a better understanding of these cells, as we believe they could be critical for regulating brain inflammation and immunity.”

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