Microglia, one of three glial cell types in the central nervous system (CNS), play an important role as resident immunocompetent and phagocytic cells in the CNS in the event of injury and disease. It was del Rio Hortega in 1927 who determined that microglia belong a distinct glial cell type apart from astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, and since 1970s there has been wide recognition that microglia are immune effectors in the CNS that respond to pathological conditions and participate in initiation and progression of neurological disorders including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome dementia complex by releasing potentially cytotoxic molecules such as proinflammatory cytokines, reactive oxygen intermediates, proteinases and complement proteins. There is also evidence to suggest that microglia are capable of secreting neurotrophic or neuron survival factors upon activation via inflammation or injury. It is thus timely to review current status of knowledge on biology and immunology of microglia, and consider new directions of investigation on microglia in health and disease.
(c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.