New research findings: the role of scavenging cells in neurodegeneration

Tara Spires-JonesEuan MacDonald Centre researchers Chris Henstridge and Tara Spires-Jones (pictured) have published findings suggesting that overactive scavenger cells in the brain may contribute to neurodegeneration.

Working with researchers at the University of Zurich and the University of Pennsylvania, Dr Spires-Jones’ team has studied brain cells called microglia. Microglia are scavenger cells that monitor the function of neurons (nerve cells). They function to remove waste products in the brain, or prune excess synapses (the connections between neurons) during brain development.

The researchers found that a lack of a protein called TDP-43 in microglia led to an increase in this scavenging activity.

TDP-43 is thought to play a role in the cellular mechanisms that cause MND, because genetic mutations have been found in this gene in some people living with the condition. It is also thought to be important in Alzheimer’s disease.

Although the work is at an early stage, it suggests that microglia may perform an important role in the processes that lead to MND. If the microglia are not functioning correctly, because of a genetic mutation or the processes of normal aging, it could lead to increased scavenging activity and ultimately, the loss of synapses that could lead to neurodegeneration.

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Read the scientific article:

Rosa C. Paolicelli, Ali Jawaid, Christopher M. Henstridge, Andrea Valeri, Mario Merlini, John L.
Robinson, Edward B. Lee, Jamie Rose, Stanley Appel, Virginia M.-Y. Lee, John Q. Trojanowski, Tara
Spires-Jones, Paul E. Schulz, and Lawrence Rajendran. TDP-43 Depletion in Microglia Promotes
Amyloid Clearance but Also Induces Synapse Loss. Neuron. 29 June 2017;
doi:1016/j.neuron.2017.05.037

Tara Spires-Jones Investigator profile