Time-Lapse Visualization of Microglia Cell Processes using Fluorescent Miniature (Miniscope) Imaging
In the United States, an estimated 2 million cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI) resulting in more than 50,000 deaths occur every year. TBI induces an immediate primary injury resulting in local or diffuse cell death in the brain. Then a secondary injury occurs through neuroinflammation from immune cells in response to primary injury. Microglia, the resident immune cell of the central nervous system, play a critical role in neuroinflammation following TBI. Microglia make up 10% of all cells in the nervous system and are the fastest moving cells in the brain, scanning the entire parenchyma every several hours. Microglia have roles in both the healthy and injured brain. In the healthy brain, microglia can produce neuroprotective factors, clear cellular debris, and organize neurorestorative processes to recover from TBI. However, microglia mediated neuroinflammation during secondary injury produces pro-inflammatory and cytotoxic mediators contributing to neuronal dysfunction, inhibition of CNS repair, and cell death. Furthermore, neuroinflammation is a prominent feature in many neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease, of which include overactive microglia function. Microglia cell morphology, activation, and response to TBI is poorly understood. Currently, imaging microglia can only be performed while the animal is stationary and under anesthesia. The Miniscope technology allows for real-time visualization of microglia in awake behaving animals. The Miniscope is a miniature fluorescent microscope that can be implanted over a craniectomy to image microglia. Currently, the goals of Miniscope imaging are to improve image quality and develop time-lapse imaging capabilities. There were five main sub-projects that focused on these goals including surgical nose cone design, surgical holder design, improved GRIN lens setup, improved magnification through achromatic lenses, and time-lapse imaging hardware development. Completing these goals would allow for the visualization of microglia function in the healthy and injured brain, elucidating important immune functions that could provide new strategies for treating brain diseases.