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Neuroscience. 2012 Dec 6;225:162-71. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.07.029. Epub 2012 Jul 20.

Microglial activation in the injured and healthy brain: what are we really talking about? Practical and theoretical issues associated with the measurement of changes in microglial morphology.

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1
School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.

Abstract

Recently it has become apparent that microglia play a role not only in responding to insults within the central nervous system but also in responding to changes in synaptic activity and potentially modulating synaptic function. This has led to an enormous expansion of interest in how microglia respond to both pathological and nonpathological challenges, with activities that are associated with unique morphological transformations. Examining changes in microglial morphology can provide direct insight into the cells' functional activities, as morphological status is recognized to be tightly coupled with function. Despite these advances in knowledge, many of the image-based morphometric procedures used to investigate changes in microglial morphology have not kept pace. This has created a situation in which morphometric approaches that have been extensively employed in the past can no longer provide accurate information on the complex transformations that microglia can undergo, particularly under non-pathological conditions. This review critically examines the strengths and weaknesses of existing morphometric analysis procedures. This review further examines efforts to improve the utility of existing approaches and discusses new developments, such as digital reconstruction, that yield more accurate and specific information on how microglia remodel themselves. Ultimately, an improved understanding of the strengths and limitations of existing, and emerging, morphometric approaches will greatly facilitate efforts to understand how microglia remodel themselves in response to the full spectrum of challenges that they are known to encounter.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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