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Future Neurol. 2010 Mar 1;5(2):227-246.

Microglia in ischemic brain injury.

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Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-6465, USA Tel.: +1 206 221 5362


Microglia are resident CNS immune cells that are active sensors in healthy brain and versatile effectors under pathological conditions. Cerebral ischemia induces a robust neuroinflammatory response that includes marked changes in the gene-expression profile and phenotype of a variety of endogenous CNS cell types (astrocytes, neurons and microglia), as well as an influx of leukocytic cells (neutrophils, macrophages and T-cells) from the periphery. Many molecules and conditions can trigger a transformation of surveying microglia to microglia of an alerted or reactive state. Here we review recent developments in the literature that relate to microglial activation in the experimental setting of in vitro and in vivo ischemia. We also present new data from our own laboratory demonstrating the direct effects of in vitro ischemic conditions on the microglial phenotype and genomic profile. In particular, we focus on the role of specific molecular signaling systems, such as hypoxia inducible factor-1 and Toll-like receptor-4, in regulating the microglial response in this setting. We then review histological and novel radiological data that confirm a key role for microglial activation in the setting of ischemic stroke in humans. We also discuss recent progress in the pharmacologic and molecular targeting of microglia in acute ischemic stroke. Finally, we explore how recent studies on ischemic preconditioning have increased interest in pre-emptively targeting microglial activation in order to reduce stroke severity.

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