In mice, microglia may persist the entire lifespan of the animal. The cells’ lifetime may be linked to their role in immune memory and neurodegenerative diseases
Eliminating pathogens and cellular waste—this is an important task of microglia cells, the immune cells of the brain. They belong to the group of non-neural brain cells that support the normal function of nerve cells. A new study now shows that in mice these scavenger cells may live as long as the rodents themselves.
The new finding comes from scientists at the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research, the University of Tübingen, and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE). In an advance online publication of the journal Nature Neuroscience the scientists followed individual microglia cells under the microscope in vivo.
The unexpectedly long lifespan of microglia indicates further functions these cells may perform: “Their longevity allows them to learn and to age,” explains Professor Dr. Mathias Jucker. “This may enable them to form an immunological memory and contribute to the development of neurodegenerative diseases.”
Until now it has been unclear whether microglia cells can create a memory for pathogens similar to the one developed by immune cells in the rest of the body. This function ensures a faster and more efficient activation of the defense cells when a second contact is made. “If microglia cells lived only briefly, an immune memory would not make much sense. Now that we know this is not the case, the idea becomes well conceivable,” says co-corresponding author Dr. Angelos Skodras. In fact, there are first indications that an early stimulation of the brain’s immune system permanently changes the activity of the microglia cells.
In addition to this task, microglia have long been suspected of playing a role in the development of age-related neurological diseases. “An amazing finding in recent years is that most risk factors for Alzheimer's disease map to changes in genes that are active in microglia cells,” Jucker says. It remains unclear how the cells contribute to the development of the disease. However: “Aging and senescence of microglia may play a role—this requires a long life of the cells.”
In the healthy brain, the number of microglia remains more or less constant. However, until now scientists have been discussing whether microglia are short-lived cells that rapidly proliferate, or whether they are long-lived cells that rarely divide. Previous measurements were done only indirectly and led to contradictory results. In the present study, first author Dr. Petra Füger genetically labeled individual microglia in mice and directly observed the turnover of these cells using 2-photon imaging over many months in the mouse brain.
“As the outcome was completely open, we had a bet running in the department with predictions that ranged from a couple of months to more than a year,” Jucker recalls. In the end, half of the cells studied showed a calculated lifespan of up to 28 months, which corresponds to a mouse’s lifetime. “In our study, we were finally able to prove the longevity of microglia,” the authors conclude.
Füger et al. (2017): Microglia turnover with aging and in an Alzheimer´s model via long-term in vivo single-cell imaging. Nature Neuroscience, advanced online publication
Prof. Dr. Mathias Jucker
Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research
University of Tübingen
Phone +49 7071 29- 86863
Dr. Mareike Kardinal | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Enduring cold temperatures alters fat cell epigenetics
19.04.2018 | University of Tokyo
Full of hot air and proud of it
18.04.2018 | University of Pittsburgh
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
In an article that appears in the journal “Review of Modern Physics”, researchers at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (LAP) assess the current state of the field of ultrafast physics and consider its implications for future technologies.
Physicists can now control light in both time and space with hitherto unimagined precision. This is particularly true for the ability to generate ultrashort...
The Atlantic overturning – one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards – is weaker today than any time before in more than 1000 years. Sea surface temperature data analysis provides new evidence that this major ocean circulation has slowed down by roughly 15 percent since the middle of the 20th century, according to a study published in the highly renowned journal Nature by an international team of scientists. Human-made climate change is a prime suspect for these worrying observations.
“We detected a specific pattern of ocean cooling south of Greenland and unusual warming off the US coast – which is highly characteristic for a slowdown of the...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
19.04.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
19.04.2018 | Life Sciences
18.04.2018 | Materials Sciences