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Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 2005 Apr;48(2):220-33.

Innate (inherent) control of brain infection, brain inflammation and brain repair: the role of microglia, astrocytes, "protective" glial stem cells and stromal ependymal cells.

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Department of Medical Biochemistry and Immunology, Brain Inflammation and Immunity Group (BIIG), University of Wales College of Medicine, Tenovus Building, Heath Park, Cardiff, UK.


In invertebrates and primitive vertebrates, the brain contains large numbers of "professional" macrophages associated with neurones, ependymal tanycytes and radial glia to promote robust regenerative capacity. In higher vertebrates, hematogenous cells are largely excluded from the brain, and innate immune molecules and receptors produced by the resident "amateur" macrophages (microglia, astrocytes and ependymal cells) control pathogen infiltration and clearance of toxic cell debris. However, there is minimal capacity for regeneration. The transfer of function from hematogenous cells to macroglia and microglia is associated with the sophistication of a yet poorly-characterized neurone-glia network. This evolutionary pattern may have been necessary to reduce the risk of autoimmune attack while preserving the neuronal web but the ability to repair central nervous system damage may have been sacrificed in the process. We herein argue that it may be possible to re-educate and stimulate the resident phagocytes to promote clearance of pathogens (e.g., Prion), toxic cell debris (e.g., amyloid fibrils and myelin) and apoptotic cells. Moreover, as part of this greater division of labour between cell types in vertebrate brains, it may be possible to harness the newly described properties of glial stem cells in neuronal protection (revitalization) rather than replacement, and to control brain inflammation. We will also highlight the emerging roles of stromal ependymal cells in controlling stem cell production and migration into areas of brain damage. Understanding the mechanisms involved in the nurturing of damaged neurons by protective glial stem cells with the safe clearance of cell debris could lead to remedial strategies for chronic brain diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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