- Heavy ions and X-rays in brain tumor treatment : a comparison of their biological effects on tissue slice cultures (2009)
- Background: In this interdisciplinary project, the biological effects of heavy ions are compared to those of X-rays using tissue slice culture preparations from rodents and humans. Advantages of this biological model are the conservation of an organotypic environment and the independency from genetic immortalization strategies used to generate cell lines. Its open access allows easy treatment and observation via live-imaging microscopy. Materials and methods: Rat brains and human brain tumor tissue are cut into 300 micro m thick tissue slices. These slices are cultivated using a membrane-based culture system and kept in an incubator at 37°C until treatment. The slices are treated with X-rays at the radiation facility of the University Hospital in Frankfurt at doses of up to 40 Gy. The heavy ion irradiations were performed at the UNILAC facility at GSI with different ions of 11.4 A MeV and fluences ranging from 0.5–10 x 106 particles/cm². Using 3D-confocal microscopy, cell-death and immune cell activation of the irradiated slices are analyzed. Planning of the irradiation experiments is done with simulation programs developed at GSI and FIAS. Results: After receiving a single application of either X-rays or heavy ions, slices were kept in culture for up to 9d post irradiation. DNA damage was visualized using gamma H2AXstaining. Here, a dose-dependent increase and time-dependent decrease could clearly be observed for the X-ray irradiation. Slices irradiated with heavy ions showed less gamma H2AX-positive cells distributed evenly throughout the slice, even though particles were calculated to penetrate only 90–100 micro m into the slice. Conclusions: Single irradiations of brain tissue, even at high doses of 40 Gy, will result neither in tissue damage visible on a macroscopic level nor necrosis. This is in line with the view that the brain is highly radio-resistant. However, DNA damage can be detected very well in tissue slices using gamma H2AX-immuno staining. Thus, slice cultures are an excellent tool to study radiation-induced damage and repair mechanisms in living tissues.
- Dystrophic (senescent) rather than activated microglial cells are associated with tau pathology and likely precede neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease (2009)
- The role of microglial cells in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) neurodegeneration is unknown. Although several works suggest that chronic neuroinflammation caused by activated microglia contributes to neurofibrillary degeneration, anti-inflammatory drugs do not prevent or reverse neuronal tau pathology. This raises the question if indeed microglial activation occurs in the human brain at sites of neurofibrillary degeneration. In view of the recent work demonstrating presence of dystrophic (senescent) microglia in aged human brain, the purpose of this study was to investigate microglial cells in situ and at high resolution in the immediate vicinity of tau-positive structures in order to determine conclusively whether degenerating neuronal structures are associated with activated or with dystrophic microglia. We used a newly optimized immunohistochemical method for visualizing microglial cells in human archival brain together with Braak staging of neurofibrillary pathology to ascertain the morphology of microglia in the vicinity of tau-positive structures. We now report histopathological findings from 19 humans covering the spectrum from none to severe AD pathology, including patients with Down’s syndrome, showing that degenerating neuronal structures positive for tau (neuropil threads, neurofibrillary tangles, neuritic plaques) are invariably colocalized with severely dystrophic (fragmented) rather than with activated microglial cells. Using Braak staging of Alzheimer neuropathology we demonstrate that microglial dystrophy precedes the spread of tau pathology. Deposits of amyloid-beta protein (A beta) devoid of tau-positive structures were found to be colocalized with non-activated, ramified microglia, suggesting that A beta does not trigger microglial activation. Our findings also indicate that when microglial activation does occur in the absence of an identifiable acute central nervous system insult, it is likely to be the result of systemic infectious disease. The findings reported here strongly argue against the hypothesis that neuroinflammatory changes contribute to AD dementia. Instead, they offer an alternative hypothesis of AD pathogenesis that takes into consideration: (1) the notion that microglia are neuron-supporting cells and neuroprotective; (2) the fact that development of non-familial, sporadic AD is inextricably linked to aging. They support the idea that progressive, aging-related microglial degeneration and loss of microglial neuroprotection rather than induction of microglial activation contributes to the onset of sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. The results have far-reaching implications in terms of reevaluating current treatment approaches towards AD.