Newswise — Once largely ignored by neuroscientists, brain microglia now top the agenda for many studying neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. From digesting amyloid plaques to pruning essential synapses to kindling inflammation, these cells play major roles in health and disease. Genetic variations in microglial genes that triple the risk for AD emphasize the need to better understand these mysterious “housekeeping” cells of the brain.

At “Common Mechanisms of Neurodegeneration/Microglia in the Brain” a Keystone symposium held last June, researchers from around the globe convened to share their latest research and chart future lines of investigation. They reported major advances. Scientists have, for the first time, created microglia from human stem cells. They have identified essential ion channels that drive microglial motility, essential for the cells to sense their environment and respond to signs of trouble, such as infection or protein aggregates. Scientists reported advances in understanding how microglia mount those responses, and identified roles for the cell surface receptor, TREM2, a genetic risk factor for AD. Read Alzforum’s analysis of some of the major highlights of the meeting.

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