JUL 10, 2020 10:25 AM PDT

Immune Cells Key for Nervous System Development

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine have found that immune cells known as microglia may play a key role in how the brain forms connections between neurons. 

For the study, the researchers observed the development of the central nervous system in larval zebrafish. This is because these fish share many aspects of nervous system development with humans. Moreover, they are transparent, meaning that the cells in their nervous system are easy to watch as they develop. 

In watching the fish, the researchers found that microglia, immune cells in the brain that protect against infection, also appear to regulate myelination- the formation of a fatty sheath around neural fibers to increase their speed of transmission. Microglia seem to do so by examining and then removing some of these fatty sheaths in a process called 'phagocytosis'- or cellular 'eating'. 

The researchers further noted that the amount of myelin consumed by the microglia seemed to depend on the amount of neuronal activity between the underlying neurons. Thus, they suspect that the microglia may be able to interact with neurons to decide whether or not to remove their myelin sheaths. 

As abnormalities in myelination are characteristic of numerous neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases from Alzheimer's to schizophrenia and autism, understanding how myelination works is extremely important for both understanding and developing therapeutics to combat these diseases. 

As such, the researchers believe that their findings will lead to an improved understanding of some neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases' potential causes. 

"Learning how microglia, oligodendrocytes, and neurons work together to build a functional nervous system could ultimately help our understanding of how these cells interact in diseases of development or aging and may influence strategies for myelin repair," says Alexandria N. Hughes, first author of the study and a graduate student in the University of Colorado's Graduate School Neuroscience Program. 

 

Sources: Medical XpressNature

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
You May Also Like
MAY 15, 2020
Neuroscience
Can You Hear Body Language?
MAY 15, 2020
Can You Hear Body Language?
Most people use body language while talking. Often giving subconscious cues about their feelings and ulterior motives, u ...
JUN 22, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
MDMA Has Long-Term Benefits Against PTSD
JUN 22, 2020
MDMA Has Long-Term Benefits Against PTSD
Researchers have shown that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy has therapeutic effects that last over a year in treating post-t ...
JUN 25, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Three New Molecular Targets for Epilepsy
JUN 25, 2020
Three New Molecular Targets for Epilepsy
A study lead by scientists at FutureNeuro discovered three new drugs hold the potential for targeting epilepsy. These dr ...
JUL 05, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Brain Connectivity Differs in Long-Term Cannabis Users
JUL 05, 2020
Brain Connectivity Differs in Long-Term Cannabis Users
Researchers from the University of Texas have identified sprcific patterns of connectivity in the brains of long-term ca ...
JUL 12, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Some Brain Genes Have Unusually Long Introns
JUL 12, 2020
Some Brain Genes Have Unusually Long Introns
Our genome contains the genes that code for the proteins that carry out most biological functions, as well as a lot of o ...
JUL 21, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Teenage Cannabis Use Affects Girls More than Boys
JUL 21, 2020
Teenage Cannabis Use Affects Girls More than Boys
Researchers from the University of Montreal, Canada, have found that cannabis affects the working memory of girls at hig ...
Loading Comments...