Microglial cells are the main innate immune cells of the complex cellular structure of the brain. These cells respond quickly to pathogens and injury, accumulate in regions of degeneration and produce a wide variety of pro-inflammatory molecules. These observations have resulted in active debate regarding the exact role of microglial cells in the brain and whether they have beneficial or detrimental functions. Careful targeting of these cells could have therapeutic benefits for several types of trauma and disease specific to the central nervous system. This Review discusses the molecular details underlying the innate immune response in the brain during infection, injury and disease. © 2009 Macmillan Publishers Limited.
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