One of the most abundant cell types in brain tumors are immune system-like cells called microglia. These cells perform a large number of functions in the brain, ranging from directing the formation of nerve connections to scavenging debris.
Using new methods specifically developed to learn more about microglia in the mouse brain, Anne Solga MS, a graduate student in Dr. David Gutmann’s laboratory within the Washington University NF1 Center, found that these important cells contain RNA molecules typically found in neurons and other cell types. RNA provides the instructions for the cells to make proteins. In her studies, she found that microglia have more of these RNA molecules following brain damage due to diseases like multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury.
These studies involved numerous collaborators in the Genome Institute at Washington University as well as colleagues in the Department of Neurology. Using these methods, Ms. Solga is currently searching for new growth factors made by microglia that promote brain tumor growth.
Solga AC, Pong WW, Walker J, Wylie T, Magrini V, Apicelli AJ, Griffith M, Griffith OL, Kohsaka S, Wu GF, Brody DL, Mardis ER, Gutmann DH. (2014), RNA-sequencing reveals oligodendrocyte and neuronal transcripts in microglia relevant to central nervous system disease. Glia. doi: 10.1002/glia.22754