Glial cells are present in the brain roughly in an equal proportions to neurons, although such a ratio can vary significantly between different regions. They are central in several homeostatic and developmental aspects of the central nervous system and include oligodendrocytes progenitors and mature oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, and the "immune guests" of the CNS - the microglial cells, all of which display considerable morphological and functional variability, according to several recent investigations.
Homeopathy has been causing intense debates in Italy in the past years, mainly between its supporters and the scientists and clinicians pointing out its lack of effects in comparison to placebo treatments, at least according to the most recent and influent scientific literature. This was until last september 10th, when Dr Patil and colleagues published, on Scientific Reports a paper reporting the anti-inflammatory and pain-inhibiting effects of an homeopathic preparation in rats.
Two days ago, a monday no less, James P Allison and Tasuku Honjo have been abruptly awaken (by their colleagues and relatives, before the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, it would seem) by the greatest new that a scientist could possibly believe to receive on a random day of his or her life: they had been awarded with the 2018 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine.
This week, Nature published two news that try to analyse the dire political, social and scientific situation that UK is facing now, six months away from the official exit from European Union. The scenario is far from encouraging and the lack, to date, of a defined agreement between Europe and Britain is, alone, causing trouble among several scientists inside and outside UK.
Microglia, the most abundant brain-resident immune cell, are specialized - highly heterogeneous tissue macrophages that control many functional and developmental features of the central nervous system (CNS). Their homeostatic population comes mostly by yolk sac precursors during embryogenesis and maintain a rather well-defined transcriptional signature that is maintained by cytokines of the brain environment (e.g. TGF-beta) and other environmental factors (e.g. microbiota); on the other hand, different cohort of cells, displaying a slightly different signature, is represented by perypheral monocyte-derived cells that enter the brain and differentiate in loco. Given the central role played by microglia in CNS homeostasis, these cells have long be connected to the processes that either trigger or avoid neurodegeneration.
The immune network, and the host of of its modulators, represent -alongside the central nervous system- the most complex entity in human biology, which makes the full contextualization of immune responses in health an disase one of the hardest tasks of research. This picture is further complicated by sex-based differences: indeed it is a well-known fact that males and females can differ significanlty when it comes to immune processes, as well as to the prevalence of autoimmune diseases, with women being more prone to develop conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus and multiple sclerosis (MS). An important culprit of this difference has been found in the ormonal differences that lead to immune alterations (e.g. cytokine expression, generation of pathogenetic phenotypes of immuno cells), which, in turn, are thought to trigger the pathogenesis of autoimmune conditions. In this rather vast puzzle, a research group from Chicago School of Medicine might have recently found a new piece that helped clarifying how ormonal and immune differences between sexes have an impact in MS susceptibility and development.
Most of currently used high throughput-cell sorting techniques employ the analysis of low resolution data coming from the multiparametric measurements of the light peak intensities in the emission spectra of fluorochromes that are conjugated to antibodies binding to specific phenotypic cell markers. The use of more complex approaches, such as those that rely on the analysis of image-based informations, is basically limited by the highly demanding computational power that deep learning algorithms would require to quickly process the huge amount of informations confined in these dimensional data. Nao Nitta, and colleagues, however, proposed an interesting alternative.
Gut microbiota has been linked to several physiological and immune-related functions as well as it has been widely proven that the variety of microbes that inhabit human intestine can be influenced by social and dietary habits, as well as by chronical conditions such as diabetes. Furthermore, alterations or imbalances of the microbiota has often been theorized - although never unequivocally proven - as an important factor in the pathogenesis of several inflammatory conditions, including multiple sclerosis (SM); this fact, in particular, has been recently corroborated by the observation that the microbiota of MS patients differs significantly from that of their healthy counterpart.
Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is one of the most important cytokines of adaptive immunity. It was first identified as a principal autocrine mitogenic factor for T cells, as well as being the first product of recombinand DNA technology to be used as immuno-boosting treatment for human experimentation in pathologies in which immune modulation was a promising therapeutic strategy (e.g. cancer or AIDS). However, its role in adaptive immune response, as it was later discovered, goes well beyond that of a "mere" aspecific growth factor for T cells. Quite soon, in fact, researcers had to deal with the baffling evidence that patients with autoimmune disease displayed low production of IL-2, while mouse models with compromised IL-2 signal axis developed autoimmune conditions, a puzzle that was clarified only when Tregs were discovered.
The contact between T cell receptors (TCR), expressed by CD4 T lymphocytes, and the MHC on the surface of antigen presenting cells is crucial in leading the differentiation of naive T cells into effector cells that are required in the adaptive response against microbes. On the other hand, long-lasting immunity is guaranteed, in the aftermath of the fight against invading organisms, by memory T cells that emerge from a small population of effector T cells that survives the initial clonal expansion.
L'Associazione Italiana di Neuroimmunologia ha concesso il proprio patrocinio per le attività della Scuola quadriennale di Specializzazione post-laurea in Medicina e Chirurgia e in Psicologia dal titolo “Scuola di specializzazione in psicoterapia e neuroscienze orientata allo studio e al trattamento dei disturbi mentali e del comportamento nelle malattie neurologiche (PSICOMED)”.
B cells play a role in most autoimmune conditions mostly due faulty immune tolerance, both central and peripheral, that should instead be meant to keep autoreactive cells at bay. In multiple sclerosis (MS) B cell aggregates located in the meninges and spinal cord seem to be an important factor that contributes to the compartmentalized CNS inflammation that is typical of this disease. Despite our incomplete knowledge of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying MS pathogenesis, great advances have been made in this field by research.
Joseph Park and colleagues realized a novel 3D cellular model which allows to study the interactions and neuroinflammatory cues that occurbetween neurons, astrocytes and microglia in the inflammed human brain during Alzheimer's disease.
In this paper, published on Nature Communications by Simon Faissner and colleagues, the authors screened a group of 1040 compounds from the NINDS database in order to find a potential therapeutic compound for progressive multiple sclerosis, a diagnosis for which most of clinical trials have failed so far.
The measurement of surface markers such as CD45RA, CD45RO or CD27/CD62L/CCR7 is a common, and widely accepted method used by polychromatic flow cytometry users to evaluate the numbers of naive T cells in experimental samples. Even though this population is often considered as a homogeneous group of immune cells, it is becoming increasingly clear that naive T cell niche includes, instead a rather vast spectrum of cells with different function, differentiation state and phenotype.
Journal impact factor (JIF) is the main - if not the only - parameter used today to evaluate the quality of a published research and, consequently, the primary tool to estimate the prestige of a CV. Despite the fact that it is often considered an imperfect tool, to date, the finding of a valid alternative to JIF seems like a rather difficult task, says John Tregoning, Senior Lecturer at the Imperial College of London, on Nature.
Cytokine release syndrome (CRS) is a pathological condition, triggered by a massive production of pro-inflammatory cytokines -often referred to as "cytokine storm"- associated to many infectious and non-infectious conditions. Its clinical features include fever, vascular leakage, hypotension and, in some individuals even neurotoxicity and death.
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The European Research Council recently published its annual review regarding funded projects that ended in mid-2015, and declared that around four out of five financed studies resulted in a major scientific advances and, among these, one out of five consisted in a fundamental breakthrough; these studies are already having considerable economic and social impact.
"Results that hold only for a particular mouse in a particular lab in a particular experiment are arguably not science.", says Philip Stark, statistic professor at Berkeley, as he addresses the problem of data replicability.
Francisco J. Quintana, which we had the plasure to listen in the last AINI congress in Trieste, published this astounding paper on Nature on the role played by the metabolites produced by the commensal flora on microglial cells, and the way they respectively control inflammation by modulating astrocyte functions.
"Vaccination has successfully reduced the burden of infectious diseases worldwide, but stagnating immunization coverage and lack of effective vaccines for many endemic and newly emerging pathogens pose a threat to sustainable global health."
"When John Harley lost a friend to lupus while in medical school, he vowed to get to the bottom of the disease, a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, and sometimes death. Now, some 40 years later, Harley says he’s found a “smoking gun.” The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which infects some 90% of Americans, may cause changes in gene expression that dramatically increase a person’s chance of getting lupus and six other autoimmune disorders, a new study by Harley and colleagues shows."
Thinking that immune memory is an exclusive feature of adaptive immunity is a common mistake, and recent evidences strongly indicates that the innate branch of our immune system is just as able to react adaptively to repeated stimuli, displaying a de facto innate immune memory. The molecular mechanism behind the ability of innate immune cells to be "trained" to act differentially to occasional or sustained stimuli resides in epigenetic modifications that are induced by imprinting signals that alter subsequent immune responses. Since innate immune cells are pivotal in inflammatory homeostasis in periphery as well as in the central nervous system (CNS) where they are involved in the modulation of neuronal functions, Ann-Christin Weldeln and colleagues, addressed an important question: is innate immune memory is involved in neuropathological alterations?
More than 75% of autoimmune diseases display increased prevalence in women, and estrogens have been often pointed out as possible responsible due to their involvement in a rather wide number of physiological functions, including immune ones. However, to date, the role of estrogens in immune reactions, especially T-dependent ones, is still not well understood.
In animal research, a clean environment is often considered a mandatory condition to avoid collateral and unwanted stimuli that might interfere with the experimental condition a researcher is investigating. On the other hand, the immune system of these animals seems to remain stunned by the lack of immune challenges, some says, to the point that these animals might not represent a bona fide model for the immune system.
One of the hardest struggle in a scientist's life is writing a paper that is complete and compelling - yet concise, clear and, overall, understandable.