Researchers at the University of Groningen collaborating with researchers of the alternatives unit of BPRC, have characterized a specific brain cell type in different animal species in great detail. They have focused on microglia. These cells are often referred to as macrophages of the brain and have many important functions, both in the healthy brain as well as during neurological diseases.
Our researchers contributed by isolating microglia from the brains of rhesus macaques that were euthanized because of other experiments. After the microglia had been isolated using a rapid isolation protocol, their genetic material was analyzed to determine which gene products were produced. This RNA expression profile was than compared to those of microglia from mice, zebrafish and humans.
This research has taught us a number of important things
Firstly, that microglia of rhesus macaques and humans are very much alike. This is important because we would like to do research of which the results are translatable to humans as good as possible. As expected, mouse microglia differ much more from those of humans, and microglia from zebrafish even more.
Secondly, we were able to characterize a minimum RNA expression profile that microglia from all these animal species share. This highly evolutionary preserved profile provides insight into the cell biological programs that are important for the identity and function of microglia in the brain. The complete story can be read here.