Microglial cells are the primary immunocompetent cells in the brain. They are the first responsive element to any kind of brain damage or injury. Microglia are critically involved, for example, in neurodegenerative diseases and stroke. So far, microglial cells have been studied in vitro, i.e. outside the living organism. As a result, key aspects of microglia function have remained elusive such as their behavior in the intact brain or their immediate response to brain injury.
Now a German team of researchers from two Max Planck Institutes in Heidelberg and Goettingen (Germany) report a breakthrough in the study of microglial cells in vivo. They uncovered the behaviour of microglial cells in the intact brain by making use of two key technologies: two-photon microscopy and a transgenic mouse model. While mice employed in their experiments were genetically modified to produce a green fluorescent protein (GFP), infrared laser light was used to excite GFPs and thus to visualize stained cells in the micoscope via detection of emitted fluorescent light - even through the intact mouse skullcap. Their findings appear in this weeks online edition of Science (Epub ahead of print).
In their paper, Axel Nimmerjahn and fellow authors Frank Kirchhoff and Fritjof Helmchen provide a detailed
Contact: Dr. Fritjof Helmchen