Microglia, the brain’s immune cells responsible for eliminating pathogens and cellular waste, may live longer than researchers originally believed. A new study, published in an advance online publication of the journal Nature Neuroscience, shows that in mice these scavenger cells may live as long as the rodents themselves. The researchers followed individual microglia cells under the microscope in vivo. The unexpectedly long lifespan of microglia indicates further functions these cells may perform. Their longevity may permit them to form an immunological memory and contribute to the development of neurodegenerative diseases.
Until now it has been unclear whether microglia cells can create a memory for pathogens similar to the one developed by immune cells in the rest of the body.
Microglia have also long been suspected of playing a role in the development of age-related neurological diseases. It remains unclear how the cells contribute to the development of disease, however aging and senescence, which require the cells to live for a long time, may play a role.
In the healthy brain, the number of microglia remains more or less constant. The question until now has been whether microglia are short-lived, rapidly proliferating cells or whether they are long-lived cells that rarely divide. In the end, half of the cells studied showed a calculated lifespan of up to 28 months, which corresponds to a mouse’s lifetime, leading researchers to the conclusion that microglia are the latter.
Reprinted from materials provided by Universitaet Tübingen.