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BNA 2023 | Unraveling the role of microglia in neurodegenerative diseases

Emma Mead, PhD, Alzheimer’s Research UK Oxford Drug Discovery Institute, describes the role of microglia in neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Our understanding of the involvement of microglia in AD stems from studying post-mortem tissue, where microglia are observed surrounding amyloid-beta (Aβ) plaques, a hallmark of the disease. Extensive genome-wide association studies have further revealed that gene variants associated with immune cells, particularly microglia, are implicated in the increased risk of developing dementia. When stimulated by factors like Aβ and tau, microglia migrate to affected areas and attempt to remove debris or combat stress caused by these pathological proteins. However, if microglia become overburdened, they can malfunction and fail to respond appropriately to these stimuli. Microglia dysfunction as a result of genetic alterations can also contribute to this failure to mount an appropriate response to disease pathology. By unraveling the complexities of microglial involvement, researchers can potentially uncover new avenues for treating and managing AD and related neurological disorders. This interview took place at The BNA 2023 International Festival of Neuroscience in Brighton, UK.

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