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Methods. 1998 Nov;16(3):320-44.

Microglia in cell culture and in transplantation therapy for central nervous system disease.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, Rose F. Kennedy Center for Research in Mental Retardation and Human Development, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461, USA.


The central nervous system (CNS) is host to a significant population of macrophage-like cells known as microglia. In addition to these cells which reside within the parenchyma, a diverse array of macrophages are present in meningeal, perivascular, and other peripheral locations. The role that microglia and other CNS macrophages play in disease and injury is under intensive investigation, and functions in development and in the normal adult are just beginning to be explored. At present the biology of these cells represents one of the most fertile areas of CNS research. This article describes methodology for the isolation and maintenance of microglia in cell cultures prepared from murine and feline animals. Various approaches to identify microglia are provided, using antibody, lectin, or scavenger receptor ligand. Assays to confirm macrophage-like functional activity, including phagocytosis, lysosomal enzyme activity, and motility, are described. Findings regarding the origin and development of microglia and results of transplantation studies are reviewed. Based on these data, a strategy is presented that proposes to use the microglial cell lineage to effectively deliver therapeutic compounds to the CNS from the peripheral circulation.

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