Currently, anti-seizure medication fails about one-third of epilepsy patients. This means that finding an alternative treatment is key to helping people suffering from this crippling condition, and that’s exactly what the findings of a recent study may lead to.
Microglia are found in the brain and the spinal cord and are known to patrol the body for anything that doesn’t belong and could be harmful, such as damaged nerve cells, plaque deposits, or other debris. When they come across something malignant, they engulf and digest the cell to protect the body.
The scientists at the University of Virginia, however, observed these immune cells doing something very different — the microglia weren’t just clearing away damaged neurons as expected, but they were actually healing them.
Using an imaging technology called two-photon microscopy to study the brains of mice that had had severe seizures, the scientists caught the microglia forming tiny pouches around swollen dendrites. These “microglia process pouches,” as dubbed by the team, were seen to hang around for hours, and the dendrites they targeted appeared to regenerate much better than those without pouches.
“We did not find microglia to be ‘eating’ the neuronal elements in this context,” said study author Ukpong Eyo. “Rather, we saw a strong correlation between these interactions and a structural resolution of injured neurons suggestive of a ‘healing’ process.”
The scientists now hope that the discovery could pave the way for new seizure treatments for epilepsy and other neural conditions.
Study source: Cell Reports — Microglia provide structural resolution to injured dendrites after severe seizures