Scientists Replace Malfunctioning ‘Vacuum Cleaner’ Cells Linked to Neurological Disorders

From Neuroscience News: For Entire Post, Go Here…

ngd- This study might seem distant from our everyday concerns right now, but this is a first real step to learning how to manage and control brain inflammation…

Microglia are a specialized type of immune system cell that are found throughout the central nervous system (CNS), including brain, retina and spinal cord. Their main job is to protect the neurons of the central nervous system by gobbling up pathogens, cancer cells, foreign substances and cellular debris. They are sort of like a vacuum cleaner that the immune system uses to keep the central nervous system clean. Malfunctioning microglia are associated with many neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS and Parkinson’s. Gene therapy to replace defective microglia-related genes with properly functioning ones offers tremendous potential to alleviate or perhaps one day even eliminate such diseases.

However, up till now, such efforts in the lab or testing on animals have largely failed long before any clinical trials on humans. Attempts at transplants of microglia or of bone marrow (because bone marrow is the main location in the body of production of new stem cells that can differentiate themselves into microglia) only end up replacing up to 5 percent of the faulty microglia. Other strategies that have been more successful when tested on mice require the animal to have a suppressed immune system and still be at the neonatal stage of life. This means that it is impossible for such a strategy to be used in any real-world clinical application for humans.

In an earlier study, the same team had noticed that when drugs had been used to almost completely eliminate all existing microglia, the few that remained had an astonishing ability to proliferate. This suggested to them that to get any microglia, native or transplanted, to substantially proliferate, you need the trigger of a completely empty microglial “niche” into which new microglia grow.

So the researchers replicated this effect by feeding normal adult mice for two weeks a diet that included a drug that inhibits the production of a molecule necessary for microglial survival. Only after all the microglia were wiped out, did the researchers attempt a bone marrow transplant. This time, some 93 percent of microglia were replaced in the brain, 99.5 percent in the retina, and 93 percent in the spinal cord.

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