Originally hypothesized to function solely as immunologic responders within the central nervous system (CNS), emerging evidence has revealed that microglia have more complex roles in normal brain development and in the context of disease. In health, microglia influence neural progenitor fate decisions, astrocyte activation, neuronal homeostasis, and synaptogenesis. In the setting of brain disease, including autism, brain tumors, and neurodegenerative disorders, microglia undergo substantial morphological, molecular, and functional changes, which establish new biological states relevant to disease pathogenesis and progression. In this review, we discuss the function of microglia in health and disease and outline a conceptual framework for elucidating their specific contributions to nervous system pathobiology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)967-979
Number of pages13
JournalTrends in Molecular Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • brain
  • central nervous system
  • glioma
  • macrophage
  • microglia
  • precision medicine


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