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The defenders of the brain turned out to be his enemies

Защитники мозга оказались его врагами

Scientists from the Salk Institute have discovered a protein that helps keep your brain “clean”, removing him from the dead neurons. They were the special receptors of immune cells, which in some neurodegenerative diseases, on the contrary, began to accelerate the destruction of the brain. A study published in the journal Nature.

Despite the fact that most of the neurons of the Central nervous system remains with us throughout life, in certain areas of the brain, they continue to share and grow. This process, called neurogenesis, is always fraught with the appearance of dead or defective cells that need to be eliminated.

Scavengers play a role of immune cells — the microglia, which constitute about 10 percent of the cells in the brain. They also detect and destroy disease-causing organisms if they reach the Central nervous system, which under normal conditions is sterile. It is known that for the detection of defective cells or infectious agents, immune cells require special proteins-receptors Mer and Axl.

The researchers tested whether these receptors at microglia that specialize in harvesting brain tissue from dead cells. For this they used genetically modified mice that have been knocked out genes for the synthesis of Mer and Axl. The researchers found that in the brain of rodents in this case started to build up dead nerve cells in the areas where neurogenesis occurs.

When neuroscientists have labeled new neurons generated in mice-mutants, they were able to observe how the cells migrate to the olfactory bulb, responsible for the perception of odors. In this area of the brain the number of neurons increased by 70 percent compared to normal mice. This indicates that the microglia not only destroy the dead neurons, but also live, perhaps, with impaired functions.

When the receptor was removed in laboratory mice suffering from Parkinson’s disease, scientists have surprisingly discovered that the lifespan of animals increased. The researchers attribute this to the fact that of microglia during the disease begin to destroy more neurons than we need, actually accelerating the disease.

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