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Eye (Lond). 2009 Oct;23(10):1939-45. doi: 10.1038/eye.2008.380. Epub 2008 Dec 19.

Influence of microglia on retinal progenitor cell turnover and cell replacement.

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Department of Clinical Sciences South Bristol, Academic Unit of Ophthalmology, University of Bristol, Bristol Eye Hospital, Lower Maudlin Street, Bristol BS1 2LX, UK.


Microglia within the retina are continually replaced from the bone marrow and are the resident myeloid-derived cells within the retina. Throughout life, microglial function is conditioned by the microenvironment affording immunomodulation to control inflammation as well as functioning to enable normal development and, during adulthood, maintain normal retinal function. In adulthood, recent evidence supports the concept that the retina continues to replace cells to maintain optimal function. Although in some cases after injury, degeneration, or inflammation there remains an inextricable decline in visual function inferring a deficit in cell replacement, the deficit could be explained by microglial cell activation influencing the ability of either retinal progenitor cells or recruited progenitor cells to integrate and differentiate appropriately. Myeloid cell response differs depending on insult: it is evident that during inflammation microglia and the infiltrating myeloid cell function are conditioned by the cytokine environment. Indeed, modulating myeloid cell function therapeutically suppresses disease in experimental models of autoimmunity, whereas in non-inflammatory models microglia have little or no effect on the course of degeneration. The extent of myeloid activation can help determine retinal progenitor cell turnover. Retinal progenitor cells may be isolated from adult human retina, which, albeit limited, display mitotic activity and can differentiate. Microglial activation secreting IL-6 limits progenitor cell turnover and the extent to which differentiation to post-mitotic retinal cells occurs. Such experimental data illustrate the need to develop methods to replenish normal retinal myeloid cell function facilitating integration, either by cell transplantation or by encouraging retinal progenitor cells to recover retinal function.

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