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2010 Grants - Varvel
Alzheimer Pathologies in the Absence of Microglia
Nicholas H. Varvel, Ph.D.
Hertie-Institute for Clinical Brain Research
2010 New Investigator Research Grant
In addition to nerve cells, the brain contains many other types of cells to support brain function. Microglia constitute one type of supporting cell in the brain. Microglia mediate functions related to the immune system, such as inflammation. In the brains of persons who have died of Alzheimer's disease, microglia are notably activated, and such activation is associated with inflammation. However, it is not known to what degree microglia contribute to the development of Alzheimer pathology.
Nicholas H. Varvel, Ph.D. and colleagues are studying the role of microglia in Alzheimer's disease. Starting with mice that were genetically altered to express Alzheimer-like pathology, the researchers used molecular techniques to develop a strain of mice in which microglia are nearly absent for several weeks. Despite the absence of microglia, these mice still developed Alzheimer-like pathology in the brain.
Dr. Varvel's team plans to extend these studies by refining their methods in a way that allows the removal of microglia from the mouse brain for a much longer time. They will examine the development of Alzheimer pathology in these mice, including the formation and maintenance of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, two characteristic features of Alzheimer pathology. These studies will advance our understanding of the role of microglia in the development and maintenance of Alzheimer pathology.