Updates on the Longecity Crowdfunded Microglia Study

The Longecity community (formerly the Immortality Institute) has for some years been one of the pioneers of the current phase of crowdfunding for scientific research, and community members have raised a few tens of thousands of dollars for life science projects connected to longevity science. You might recall that last year they raised the funds for a study of microglia:

Cognitive functions of the brain decline with age. One of the protective cell types in the brain are called microglia cells. However, these microglia cells also loose function with age. Our aim is to replace non-functional microglia with new and young microglia cells derived from adult stem cells. We will inject these young microglia cells into 'Alzheimer mice' - a model for Alzheimers disease. After giving the cells some time to work, we will sacrifice the mice and measure microglia activity, neurogenesis, proliferation of neuroprogenitors and plaque density in the brain. A reduction in plaque density of Alzheimer mice would be a first proof that the transplanted microglia are performing their expected function.

Some interim results and comments are posted to the study blog at Longecity - note that English is not the first language of the researchers involved.

To visualize microglia and amyloid plaques in vivo, we established different staining protocols (including histology and immunohistology) to later evaluate microglia number after transplantation and also amyloid load. ... Most of our measurements will take place in the hippocampus, one of the brain regions where many of the degenerative changes happen in Alzheimer's disease. ... In summary we have established all necessary methods for brain staining, tested the sterology method using non-transplanted mice and are now ready to transplant. We finally got the approval from our animal guys after waiting for 10 month (they are a bit over-correct here in Germany).

One thing to note about animal studies, and medical research in general, is the exceedingly heavy layer of regulation that exists in much of the world. There are boards and reviews and an endless procession of paperwork, all apparently devoted to slowing things down. It really can take the better part of a year to obtain institutional approval to perform a comparatively simple study - and it is usually impossible to have that approval timed to allow research to proceed without delay. Another thing to note is that even the comparatively simple work in the life sciences involves many, many details of measurement, cell cultures, and other line items. Much of that is largely hidden from the outside world and glossed over in the popular science press, which prefers to focus on the end results or new achievements rather than all of the well known but time-consuming foundation work that goes into any study.

Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.