Exogenous microglia pass through the blood-brain barrier and migrate to ischemic hippocampal lesions when injected into the circulation. We investigated the effect of exogenous microglia on ischemic CA1 pyramidal neurons. Microglia were isolated from neonatal mixed brain cultures, labeled with the fluorescent dye PKH26, and injected into the subclavian artery of Mongolian gerbils subjected to ischemia reperfusion neuronal injury. PKH26-labeled microglia migrated to the ischemic hippocampal lesion, resulting in increased numbers of surviving neurons compared with control animals, even when injected 24 h after ischemia. Interferon-γ stimulation of isolated microglia enhanced the neuroprotective effect. Administration of exogenous microglia resulted in normal performance in a passive avoidance-learning task. Additionally, administration of exogenous microglia increased the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor in the ischemic hippocampus, and thus might have induced neurotrophin-dependent protective activity in damaged neurons. Peripherally injected microglia exhibited a specific affinity for ischemic brain lesions, and protected against ischemic neuronal injury in vivo. It is possible that administration of exogenous microglia can be developed as a potential candidate therapy for central nervous system repair after transitory global ischemia.
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