Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Eye-solated Protection

Immune cells of the central nervous system evolve alongside retinal cells in a lab-grown model

09 May 2022

Eye-solated Protection

Our delicate and essential central nervous system (CNS) is protected by the blood-brain barrier. While this shields our brains and more from outside threats, it also blocks out useful tools like circulating immune cells. That being said, our CNS is still protected by specialised immune cells called microglia but where they originate is a topic of some debate. By mimicking the development of the human eye (a part of our CNS) in a dish in the lab, guiding induced pluripotent stem cells along the path to retinal cells, researchers revealed that microglia-like cells that would provide the retina with immune protection also evolve in the culture (shown by green staining). This shows that microglia emerge naturally and locally to the eye, and possibly other organs too, to overcome this barrier, and interestingly without being connected to any blood system either.

Written by Sophie Arthur

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