Photo with 33 notes
Scientists from the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg have discovered that immune cells in the brain can produce a substance that prevents bacterial growth: namely itaconic acid. Until now, biologists had assumed that only certain fungi produced itaconic acid. A team working with Dr. Karsten Hiller, head of the Metabolomics Group at LCSB, and Dr. Alessandro Michelucci has now shown that even so-called microglial cells in mammals are also capable of producing this acid. “This is a ground breaking result,” says Prof. Dr. Rudi Balling, director of LCSB: “It is the first proof of an endogenous antibiotic in the brain.” The researchers have now published their results in the prestigious scientific journal PNAS.
A microglial cell (green) in the mature mouse brain rests among synapses (labeled blue and red) and does not interact with them, as shown here. However, in early stages of development activated microglia are found in close contact with synapses. From Schafer et al. in Neuron, May 24, 2012.