May 13, 2011

Sex hormone precursor inhibits brain inflammation

Glial cells, magified 400 times. Courtesy of Thomas Deerinck, NCMIR, UCSD.

Neurons get the headlines, but they survive and thrive only with the support of other types of brain cells, specifically microglia and astrocyte cells that help the central nervous system respond to infection and injury.

In a paper published in the May 13 issue of the journal Cell, Christopher Glass, Kaoru Saijo and colleagues at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and elsewhere report discovering a steroid hormone that inhibits inflammation induced by these support cells. The work helps explain the exaggerated inflammatory response in the brain that is characteristic of numerous, devastating neurodegenerative diseases.

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