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The Brain's Bat Signal
Posted: Friday, May 25, 2012 12:00 PM
Joined: 12/6/2011
Posts: 3326

From Alzheimer's Daily News:

(Source: AAAS) - Microglia are the brain's "security guards", watching the brain for damage and then going to the injury site to engulf dead neurons. Exactly how they detect problems was unclear, but researchers now show that they respond to an SOS signal from dying cells that is relayed throughout the brain. The finding may have implications for the treatment of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.

In the study, Francesca Peri of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, and colleagues used lasers to destroy small numbers of neurons in genetically modified zebrafish. In response, all the microglia migrated to the injury site, suggesting that they are indeed attracted by a long-range signal.

Microglial cells may malfunction in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, and there is some evidence that they worsen the damage caused by a stroke. The new findings, said Peri, implicate calcium waves as potential targets for drug treatments. A drug could stop microglia in their tracks, for example, or reroute their migration.


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