Microglia (brain macrophages) are the primary immune cells of the central nervous system and perform continuous surveillance to maintain brain tissue homeostasis. The microglia respond to neuronal stress and damage. Sustained activation of the microglia results in exaggerated inflammatory activation and subsequent tissue damage, which is observed in neurodegenerative diseases.
Alternatively, inflammation and neuroinflammation can induce a state of suppressed immune activity in the microglia, called endotoxin tolerance. This condition is associated with reduced neuronal support by the microglia and a decreased capacity to respond to inflammatory stimuli. The research is focused on neuron–glia signalling and on the epigenetic regulation of different microglia phenotypes and associated functionalities with an emphasis on brain ageing and neurodegenerative conditions.
The investigators combine cell and organotypical slice cultures, mouse genetics, state-of-the-art cell isolation procedures in combination with genetic and epigenetic tools to delineate the molecular and epigenetic pathways that determine microglia function. Our studies provide a genome-wide insight in the genetic and epigenetic regulation of microglia function in the normal and diseased brain and could lead to the identification of novel therapeutic targets.
Head of the Section Molecular Neurobiology Professor of Molecular Neuroimmunology
Neuroscience, epigenetics, innate immunity