Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis are all examples of neurodegenerative diseases. In these conditions, Inflammation in the brain can lead to the death of neurons, which leads to a decline in brain function and the development of dementia.
One cell type that researchers are interested in studying is microglia, which are immune cells found in the brain and spinal cord. Scientists believe that microglia may play an important role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases, but that it may also be possible to encourage microglia to protect people from such diseases.
Animal models, in particular those using mice and rats, have often been used to study microglia and neurodegenerative diseases. But after multiple clinical trials of treatments for these diseases have failed, these animal models are being called into question. It is becoming clear they do not fully replicate human diseases.
On the other hand, human microglia are difficult to isolate from people to study in the lab. They can only be obtained from either invasive brain biopsies or from brain tissue after death, both of which are technically challenging, time-consuming, and do not produce enough cells to carry out significant research.
We need easier methods to obtain human microglia to study neurodegenerative diseases in the lab in ways that are more relevant to human disease.
“There are valid concerns about the applicability of animal disease models to human patients due to the failure of multiple treatment trials aimed at these neurodegenerative disorders.”
Dr Rawan Aloufi.