Tissue Repair Postgraduate Training Programme

Microglia review published by Tissue Repair student Niamh McNamara

Niamh McNamara reviews role of microglia in developing white matter and perinatal brain injury.

Niamh McNamara, who is undertaking her PhD research in the lab of Dr Veronique Miron at the Centre for Inflammation Research, has published a review on the role of microglia in healthy brain and prenatal brain injury. The peer-reviewed review is published in Neuroscience Letters (in press; doi.org/10.1016/j.neulet.2019.134539)

Key messages in the review are:

- Studies of microglia heterogeneity in development have revealed a white matter-associated subset, whose function in myelination remains to be fully elucidated.

- Microglia may regulate myelination by secretion of factors that influence oligodendrocyte differentiation and myelin thickness.

- Pro-inflammatory microglia have been robustly associated with hypomyelination in perinatal white matter injury, yet whether specific subsets contribute is unknown.

-Pre-clinical studies of repurposed anti-inflammatory drugs indicate that these may dampen damaging microglial responses in perinatal brain injury, however no microglia-specific therapeutics have been developed.

Review abstract:

Perinatal brain injury (PBI) to the developing white matter results in hypomyelination of axons and can cause long-term motor and cognitive deficits e.g. cerebral palsy. There are currently no approved therapies aimed at repairing the white matter following insult, underscoring the need to investigate the mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of PBI. Microglia have been strongly implicated, but their function and heterogeneity in this context remain poorly understood, posing a barrier to the development of microglia-targeted therapies for white matter repair following PBI. In this review, we discuss the roles of microglia in normal white matter development and in PBI, and potential drug strategies to influence microglial responses in this setting.

McNamara NB & Miron VE. Microglia in developing white matter and perinatal brain injury. Neuroscience Letters 2019: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304394019306421?via%3Dihub