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Microglia are the primary immune cells in the central nervous system (CNS). They are widely distributed throughout the brain, coming into close contact with neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes. Unlike other neural cell types, which are derived from the ectoderm, microglia originate from primitive macrophages that arise from the yolk sac.

Microglia play critical roles in both the defense and maintenance of the CNS. They contribute to brain homeostasis by controlling neuronal proliferation and differentiation and inducing synaptic formation. They also release trophic factors, such as Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-I/IGF-1), for support of neurons and oligodendrocytes. Microglia also influence neuronal proliferation and differentiation in the developing brain, as well as neural patterning, circuit formation, and synaptic pruning.

As part of the innate immune system, microglia continually survey their surroundings for danger signals, such as invading pathogens or neuronal debris. Detection of such signals activates the glial cells and stimulates the release of factors that aid in resolving the injury/insult and repairing the tissue. Aberrant microglia function can contribute to the development of several neurological and psychiatric diseases. R&D Systems offers a range of research tools needed for the investigation of microglia.