Thursday, August 25, 2016

Immune cells and brain development


Do you know about microglia? OK think and tell..

Yes, right. These are the cells that fight against various brain diseases and injuries by swallowing foreign or disruptive objects and releasing molecules that activate certain repair mechanisms.

So, does that mean these cells are active only under abnormal or diseased conditions?
Well, no. These cells are active under normal conditions too, where they contribute to maturation and design new neuronal circuits.
Microglia directly contact neurons to induce the formation of new neuronal projections that eventually will connect with other neurons and thereby increase or strengthen brain activity. (It's like making new friends.. the microglial cells act as messenger for neurons to make more new friends (other neurons) :p )

But how? How do they do this?
There is a direct contact between microglia and dendrites of neurons. This induces the formation of filopodia- thin structures that project out from the dendrites, seek out the terminals of other neurons and form synapses that enable neuronal communication. This microglia- dendritic connection causes a quite rapid appearance and growth of filopodia.

How is it clinically significant?
There is a definite association between  immune cells and neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism- Spectrum Disorders (ASD). So targeting these cells may help us with diagnosis and treatment procedures of such conditions.

That's all!
- Jaskunwar Singh

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