Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Locating ground zero: How the brain's emergency workers find the disaster area

Date:
May 24, 2012
Source:
European Molecular Biology Laboratory
Summary:
Scientists have discovered exactly how cells called microglia detect the site of brain injury – a finding that paves the way for new medical approaches to conditions where microglia's ability to locate hazardous material is compromised, like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

Microglia (green) move to the site of injury (arrow) to clear up debris.
Credit: Copyright EMBL/Peri

Like emergency workers rushing to a disaster scene, cells called microglia speed to places where the brain has been injured, to contain the damage by 'eating up' any cellular debris and dead or dying neurons. Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, have now discovered exactly how microglia detect the site of injury, thanks to a relay of molecular signals. Their work, recently published in Developmental Cell, paves the way for new medical approaches to conditions where microglia's ability to locate hazardous cells and material within the brain is compromised.

"Considering that they help keep our brain healthy, we know surprisingly little about microglia," says Francesca Peri, who led the work. "Now, for the first time, we've identified the mechanism that allows microglia to detect brain injury, and how that emergency call is transmitted from neuron to neuron."

When an emergency occurs, cries can alert bystanders, who will dial the emergency number. A call will go out over the radio, and ambulances, police or fire engines in the area will respond as needed. In the brain, Peri and colleagues found, injured neurons send out their own distress cry: they release a molecule called glutamate. Neighbouring neurons sense that glutamate and respond by taking up calcium. As glutamate spreads out from the injury site, this creates a wave of calcium swallowing. Along that wave, as neurons take up calcium they release a third molecule, called ATP. When the wave comes within reach, a microglial cell detects that ATP and takes it as a call to action, moving in that direction -- essentially tracing the wave backwards until it reaches the injury.

Scientists knew already that microglia can detect ATP, but this molecule doesn't last long outside of cells, so there were doubts about how ATP alone could be a signal that carried far enough to reach microglia located far from the site of injury. The trick, as Peri and colleagues discovered, is the long-lasting glutamate-driven calcium wave that can travel the length of the brain. Thanks to this wave, the ATP signal is not just emitted by the injured cells, but is repeatedly sent out by the neurons along the way, until it reaches microglia.

Dirk Sieger and Christian Moritz in Peri's lab took advantage of the fact that zebrafish have transparent heads, which allow scientists to peer down a microscope straight into the fish's brain. They used a laser to injure a few of the fish's brain cells, and watched fluorescently-labelled microglia move in on the injury. When they genetically engineered zebrafish to make neurons' calcium levels traceable under the microscope, too, the scientists were able to confirm that when the calcium wave reached microglia, these cells immediately started moving toward the injury.

Knowing all the steps in this process, and how they feed into each other, could help to design treatments to improve microglia's detection ability, which go awry in conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Molecular Biology Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Dirk Sieger, Christian Moritz, Thomas Ziegenhals, Sergey Prykhozhij, Francesca Peri. Long-Range Ca2 Waves Transmit Brain-Damage Signals to Microglia. Developmental Cell, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.devcel.2012.04.012

Cite This Page:

European Molecular Biology Laboratory. "Locating ground zero: How the brain's emergency workers find the disaster area." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524123021.htm>.
European Molecular Biology Laboratory. (2012, May 24). Locating ground zero: How the brain's emergency workers find the disaster area. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524123021.htm
European Molecular Biology Laboratory. "Locating ground zero: How the brain's emergency workers find the disaster area." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524123021.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) A study for University College London suggests obese people who are discriminated against gain more weight than those who are not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins