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Fundamental research

24 - 03 - 2018

Better knowing microglia to treat retinal degeneration

A study in mice has uncovered mechanisms that regulate retinal immunity, thereby advancing research on the prevention and treatment of retinal degeneration.



The retina is a thin layer of cells at the back of the eye. It is composed of light-sensitive cells, neurons and microglia. Microglia are immune cells from the macrophage group.


In case of retinal damage, microglia remove cellular debris but at the same time suppress healthy cells. In animal models of retinal degeneration suppressing microglia even suppressed loss of vision.


Researchers therefore considered temporarily suppressing microglia in patients to slow down the degenerative processes. Indeed, these cells have the capacity to regenerate their population. But researchers are still unaware what are the factors that regulate this repopulation or whether the microglia is perfectly reconstituted.


Researchers have therefore decided to study the mechanisms that control this proliferation.


Researchers studied the retina of adult mice and visualized the microglia cells in the retina directly by in vivo imaging.


These researchers found that the proliferation started from residual cells in the centre of the retina and further gained the entire retina to perfectly reconstitute the structure and function of the microglia. The regulation of this repopulation is assured the protein CX3CL1 and its receptor.




This research is a step forwards in the fight against retinal degeneration. The protein CX3CL1 could become a fundamental therapeutic target.