The emerging roles of microglia are currently being investigated in the healthy and diseased brain with a growing interest in their diverse functions. In recent years, it has been demonstrated that microglia are not only immunocentric, but also neurobiological and can impact neural development and the maintenance of neuronal cell function in both healthy and pathological contexts. In the disease context, there is widespread consensus that microglia are dynamic cells with a potential to contribute to both central nervous system damage and repair. Indeed, a number of studies have found that microenvironmental conditions can selectively modify unique microglia phenotypes and functions. One novel mechanism that has garnered interest involves the regulation of microglial function by microRNAs, which has therapeutic implications such as enhancing microglia-mediated suppression of brain injury and promoting repair following inflammatory injury. Furthermore, recently published articles have identified molecular signatures of myeloid cells, suggesting that microglia are a distinct cell population compared to other cells of myeloid lineage that access the central nervous system under pathological conditions. Thus, new opportunities exist to help distinguish microglia in the brain and permit the study of their unique functions in health and disease.
Keywords: brain development; inflammation; microRNA; microglia; neurodegeneration; neuroimmunology.
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