Science supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) sheds new light on microglia, a type of immune cell found throughout the brain. Neuroscientists at the NIDA Intramural Research Program, with colleagues from the Johns Hopkins University, conducted the most extensive analysis to date of microglia in the midbrain of healthy mice. They discovered that the microglia in different midbrain areas differ in population density, number of branches, cellular contents, and gene expression.
Overall, microglia carry out a range of functions that support tissue health, limit damage from inflammation and injury, and affect cell-to-cell signaling. The new findings suggest that microglia in different parts of the brain accentuate different functions. The findings have implications for trying to understand how microglia might contribute to conditions related to neurodegeneration, addiction, toxic poisoning, and inflammatory conditions.