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Huitinga Group

Differences between microglia of the brain’s white and grey matter in Multiple Sclerosis

Researchers from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience have found differences between the microglia in white and grey matter areas in the brains of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). The findings were published in Nature Communications.

MS is characterized by inflammations that lead to the breakdown of myelin, the insulating sheath of nerve cells in the brain. What is known is that microglia – the local immune cells and waste processors in the brain – take up myelin in MS, but the exact role of the immune cells is not yet clear. In order to gain a better understanding of this process, the research group of Inge Huitinga has researched microglia in brain areas without inflammations. The research was conducted in post mortem brain material from donors with MS who had donated their brains to the Netherlands Brain Bank.

The researchers found that microglia in normal-looking brain matter already showed the first signs of MS, when the immunological response (e.g. inflammation) had not yet taken place. In addition, there were clear differences between the microglia in white and grey matter, which suggests that microglia from these separate brain areas can play different roles in the emergence of MS inflammations.

These findings show that microglia are an important target when it comes to finding a treatment for MS.

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Huitinga Group

The Neuroimmunology group aims to investigate the molecular and cellular factors underlying multiple sclerosis (MS). Special emphasis is put on the role of microglia in the initiation and expansion of MS lesions. The group investigates effects of neurosteroids (sex steroids, glucocorticoids and Vitamin D), complement, CD200 and scavenger receptors on microglia activation and MS lesion development using post mortem MS brain tissue and CSF from more than 200 MS brain donors of the Netherlands Brain Bank and in vivo and in vitro models of demyelination.

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