Microglia are resident immune cells in your brain that act as first responders, always on the lookout for trouble. Accounting for about 10% of our brain cells, they were historically thought of as passive bystanders in the brain until injury or infection kicked them into action. These cells were first observed in 1856 by the German physician Rudolf Virchow and later termed microglia, which means “small glue”.
Now a new study in mice, published in Science, shows that microglia may actually be key players in memory retention. If the same effect is discovered in humans, it may lead to better treatment of amnesia, Alzheimer’s and other conditions affecting memory.
Microglia have many jobs. When there is an injury or infection present, they play an active role in dampening the brain’s response. But scientists are increasingly realising that microglia have many jobs. Our brains are messy places with cells dying and chemicals building up that need to be cleared. It’s the job of microglia to keep our brains highways clear and healthy.
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