Microglia, the immune cells of the central nervous system, have long been a subject of study in the Alzheimer's disease (AD) field due to their dramatic responses to the pathophysiology of the disease. With several large-scale genetic studies in the past year implicating microglial molecules in AD, the potential significance of these cells has become more prominent than ever before. As a disease that is tightly linked to aging, it is perhaps not entirely surprising that microglia of the AD brain share some phenotypes with aging microglia. Yet the relative impacts of both conditions on microglia are less frequently considered in concert. Furthermore, microglial "activation" and "neuroinflammation" are commonly analyzed in studies of neurodegeneration but are somewhat ill-defined concepts that in fact encompass multiple cellular processes. In this review, we have enumerated six distinct functions of microglia and discuss the specific effects of both aging and AD. By calling attention to the commonalities of these two states, we hope to inspire new approaches for dissecting microglial mechanisms.
Keywords: Aging; Alzheimer's disease; Microglia; Neurodegeneration; Neuroinflammation.
Published by Elsevier Inc.