Navigation Links
Not so dumb
Date:11/25/2013

Mysterious brain cells called microglia are starting to reveal their secrets thanks to research conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Until recently, most of the glory in brain research went to neurons. For more than a century, these electrically excitable cells were believed to perform the entirety of the information processing that makes the brain such an amazing machine. In contrast, cells called glia which together account for about half of the brain's volume were thought to be mere fillers that provided the neurons with support and protection but performed no vital function of their own. In fact, they had been named glia, the Greek for "glue," precisely because they were considered so unsophisticated.

But in the past few years, the glia cells particularly the tiny microglia that make up about one-tenth of the brain cells have been shown to play critical roles both in the healthy and in the diseased brain.

The octopi-like microglia are immune cells that conduct ongoing surveillance, swallowing cellular debris or, in the case of infection, microbes, to protect the brain from injury or disease. But these remarkable cells are more than cleaners: In the past few years, they have been found to be involved in shaping neuronal networks by pruning excessive synapses the contact points that allow neurons to transmit signals during embryonic development. They are probably also involved in reshaping the synapses as learning and memory occurs in the adult brain. Defects in microglia are believed to contribute to various neurological diseases, among them Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. By clarifying how exactly the microglia operate on the molecular level, scientists might be able to develop new therapies for these disorders.

More than a decade ago, Weizmann Institute's Prof. Steffen Jung developed a transgenic mouse model that for the first time enabled scientists to visualize the highly active microglia in the live brain. Now Jung has made a crucial next step: His laboratory developed a system for investigating the functions of microglia.

The scientists have equipped mice with a genetic switch: an enzyme that can rearrange previously marked portions of the DNA. The switch is activated by a drug: When the mouse receives the drug, the enzyme performs a genetic manipulation for example, to disable a particular gene. The switch is so designed that over the long term, it targets only the microglia, but not other cells in the brain or in the rest of the organism. In this manner, researchers can clarify not only the function of the microglia, but the roles of different genes in their mechanism of action.

As reported in Nature Neuroscience, Weizmann scientists, in collaboration with the team of Prof. Marco Prinz at the University of Freiburg, Germany, recently used this system to examine the role of an inflammatory gene expressed by the microglia. They found that the microglia contribute to an animal disease equivalent of multiple sclerosis. Prof. Jung's team included Yochai Wolf, Diana Varol and Dr. Simon Yona, all of Weizmann's Immunology Department.

The system developed at the Weizmann Institute, currently applied in numerous other studies by researchers at Weizmann and elsewhere, promises to shed new light on the role of the microglia in the healthy brain as well as in Alzheimer's, ALS and various other diseases.

Prof. Steffen Jung's research is supported by the Leir Charitable Foundations; the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust; the Adelis Foundation; Lord David Alliance, CBE; the Wolfson Family Charitable Trust; the estate of Olga Klein Astrachan; and the European Research Council.

The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world's top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions. Noted for its wide-ranging exploration of the natural and exact sciences, the Institute is home to scientists, students, technicians and supporting staff. Institute research efforts include the search for new ways of fighting disease and hunger, examining leading questions in mathematics and computer science, probing the physics of matter and the universe, creating novel materials and developing new strategies for protecting the environment.


'/>"/>

Contact: Yivsam Azgad
news@weizmann.ac.il
972-893-43856
Weizmann Institute of Science
Source:Eurekalert  

Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Not so dumb
(Date:2/14/2017)... , Feb. 14, 2017  Wake Forest Baptist Medical ... its new chief executive officer (CEO). Freischlag joins the ... John D. McConnell , M.D., who last year announced ... the Medical Center, after leading it since 2008.   ... scope of Wake Forest Baptist,s academic health system, which ...
(Date:2/8/2017)... About Voice Recognition Biometrics Voice recognition biometrics ... a stored voiceprint template. Acoustic features of an ... are compared to distinguish between individual voices. Voice ... PCs already have a microphone and can authenticate ... are most likely to be deployed in telephone-based ...
(Date:2/7/2017)... Feb. 7, 2017   MedNet Solutions , an ... spectrum of clinical research, is pleased to announce that ... its innovative, highly flexible and award winning eClinical solution, ... iMedNet is a proven Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) clinical ... Capture (EDC), but also delivers an entire suite of ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/24/2017)... , Feb. 24, 2017  Driven by ... biotechnology are now the fastest growing categories, finds ... Specialty Actives in Personal Care: Multi-regional Market Analysis ... and management consulting firm Kline. "Biotechnology ... that make them more effective for skin and ...
(Date:2/24/2017)... 24, 2017  OncoSec Medical Incorporated ("OncoSec") (NASDAQ: ONCS), ... a Key Opinion Leader event to highlight new clinical ... poster presentation at the upcoming 2017 ASCO-SITC Immuno-Oncology Symposium ... will be held in-person and via live webcast on ... AM PST at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel ...
(Date:2/23/2017)... Calif. , Feb. 23, 2017  MIODx ... license for two key immunotherapy technologies from the ... technology provides a method to monitor a patient ... as PD-L1 and CTLA-4.  The second license extends ... a patient is likely to have an immune-related ...
(Date:2/23/2017)... ... February 23, 2017 , ... ... in a published evaluation of multiple immunoassay-based threat detection technologies by researchers ... Laboratory, PathSensors’ CANARY® biosensor threat detection technology was found to have the ...
Breaking Biology Technology: