We are investigating how to repair the insulation that surrounds nerve fibres, called myelin, which is the main target of injury in the infant brain and which is normally needed for healthy nerve communication throughout the nervous system. Our previous research found that in the adult brain, myelin repair is supported by immune cells that live in the central nervous system, called microglia.
Microglia can support myelin repair when they are turned on to a ‘reparative’ state. Our recent research has found that following injury to the infant brain, microglia do not turn on to this reparative state, but rather take on a damaging state that contributes to injury. We are researching the signals in the microglia that control their ability to damage myelin or support myelin repair, and by doing so we are identifying ways in which we may be able to intervene with drugs to encourage reparative microglia and, in turn, brain repair.