E17: Gray Matters: Neuroinflammation
Mary Parker

E17: Gray Matters: Neuroinflammation

Microglial cells are the first defense immune cells in the brain. They might also be an important therapeutic target for future drugs.

Central nervous system (CNS) diseases are well known for being tricky to treat and difficult to research. So much is happening in your nerves and brain that it can be hard to build effective models or design drugs to target the causes of CNS diseases. However, some researchers are getting excited about the possibilities of new research into neuroinflammation.

For example, recent research has attempted to define the mechanism of action for microglial cells, which are the first defense immune cells in the brain. Microglia activate in the presence of infection, toxins, brain injury, or as a result of autoimmune diseases, and can cause neuroinflammation. If neuroinflammation is an important and damaging symptom of some CNS diseases, as researchers suspect, then microglia could be an important therapeutic target for future drugs.

My guest Carina Peritore, PhD, product manager neuroscience discovery at Charles River, describes how in the past decade or so researchers have begun to suspect that neuroinflammation could be the key to treating some of the most notoriously difficult diseases. She also discusses how diet and the gut microbiome could be linked to neuroinflammation, and the possibilities that could create for treating some CNS diseases with special diets.

In preparation for the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) conference in Chicago, Carina discusses some of the research being presented on neuroinflammation. One talk being presented by Malu Tansey, PhD, Director of the Center for Translation Research in Neurodegenerative Disease at the University of Florida, will look at how diets high in sugar and fat might be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Tansey was also the keynote speaker at Charles River’s neuroinflammation symposium in June. Charles River scientist Tuulia Huhtala, PhD, will be presenting findings from an ongoing experiment that uses a type of gram negative bacteria to induce inflammation in vitro and in vivo.

Their work highlights the fascinating links between the brain and the body that can be understood through neuroinflammatory responses, and how this research area could hold the answers to some of CNS’s stickiest questions.

Learn more about neuroinflammation, including the role it plays in Alzheimer’s disease, on this month’s episode of Sounds of Science. And follow our live coverage of the SfN meeting on Charles River's Eureka blog.