Uncovering the role of microglia in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

microglia_alcohol

Representative images of Iba-1+ microglia in the postnatal day 10 rat hippocampus. Image courtesy of Anna Klintsova, PhD.

Children born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders face a range of physical and cognitive impairments including long-term deficits in learning, behavior, and immune function. In a paper published in Neuroscience, Dr. Anna Klintsova and her lab at the University of Delaware report that activation of the brain’s immune response may contribute to some of the damage caused by fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

In their study, the researchers used Stereo Investigator and Neurolucida to examine the hypothesis that exposure to alcohol while the brain is growing rapidly is associated with abnormal microglial activation and high levels of pro-inflammatory proteins which impair learning-related plasticity; leading to neuro-developmental and psychopathological disorders.

“My lab has been using both Stereo Investigator and Neurolucida for more than a decade in all quantitative neuroanatomical studies, including the featured one,” said Dr. Anna Klintsova. “We find this software to be user-friendly, reliable and essential for obtaining unbiased results.”

They used Stereo Investigator to quantify the number of microglia in the hippocampus of neonatal rats who were exposed to alcohol during the equivalent of the third trimester of a human pregnancy. The researchers expected to see an increased number of microglia in alcohol-exposed neonatal rats, however they found a decreased number of microglia. Despite the decrease in microglia number, there was a significant increase in pro-inflammatory proteins expressed by microglia and an increase in microglial activation.

To measure microglial activation, the researchers quantified the area of cell territory using Neurolucida. Activated microglia have a smaller cell territory than resting microglia, so the smaller cell territory found in alcohol exposed rats indicates a more active state.

This research supports the hypothesis that abnormal microglia activation plays a role in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, however more research is needed to further understand the relationship.

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Researchers cited MBF systems in 21 papers between 12/16/2016 and 1/6/2017

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Researchers cited MBF systems in 18 papers during the week of 12/12/2016

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Researchers cited MBF systems in 18 papers during the week of 12/05/2016

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Researchers cited MBF systems in 16 papers between 11/1/2016 and 11/11/2016

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Researchers cited MBF systems in 15 papers during the week of 10/24/2016

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Researchers cited MBF systems in 14 papers during the week of 10/17/2016

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Researchers cited MBF systems in 22 papers during the week of 10/10/2016

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Researchers cited MBF systems in 21 papers during the week of 10/3/2016

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Researchers cited MBF systems in 17 papers during the week of 9/26/2016

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Biedermann, S. V., Auer, M. K., Bindila, L., Ende, G., Lutz, B., Weber-Fahr, W., . . . Fuss, J. (2016). Restricted vs. unrestricted wheel running in mice: Effects on brain, behavior and endocannabinoids. Hormones and Behavior, 86, 45-54. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2016.09.007.

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