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Trends Neurosci. 2006 Feb;29(2):68-74. Epub 2006 Jan 6.

Microglial phenotype: is the commitment reversible?

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  • 1The Weizmann Institute of Science, POB 26, Rehovot, 76100, Israel.


Microglia, the standby cells for immune defense in the CNS, have a reputation for exacerbating the neural damage that occurs in neurodegenerative diseases. However, research over the past few years has established that microglia do not constitute a single, uniform cell population, but rather comprise a family of cells with diverse phenotypes--some that are beneficial and others that the CNS can barely tolerate and that are therefore destructive. This finding raised several questions. What instructs microglia to acquire a particular phenotype, and how do these phenotypes differ? How committed are microglia to a specific phenotype? Can destructive microglia become protective, and can protective microglia retain their beneficial phenotype even when they encounter a destructive environment? Here, we address these questions, and the background of research that elicited them.

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