Untangling senescent and damage-associated microglia in the aging and diseased brain

Pei Y. Ng, Taylor L. McNeely, Darren J. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Microglial homeostasis has emerged as a critical mediator of health and disease in the central nervous system. In their neuroprotective role as the predominant immune cells of the brain, microglia surveil the microenvironment for debris and pathogens, while also promoting neurogenesis and performing maintenance on synapses. Chronological ageing, disease onset, or traumatic injury promotes irreparable damage or deregulated signaling to reinforce neurotoxic phenotypes in microglia. These insults may include cellular senescence, a stable growth arrest often accompanied by the production of a distinctive pro-inflammatory secretory phenotype, which may contribute to age- or disease-driven decline in neuronal health and cognition and is a potential novel therapeutic target. Despite this increased scrutiny, unanswered questions remain about what distinguishes senescent microglia and non-senescent microglia reacting to insults occurring in ageing, disease, and injury, and how central the development of senescence is in their pivot from guardian to assailant. To intelligently design future studies to untangle senescent microglia from other primed and reactionary states, specific criteria must be developed that define this population and allow for comparisons between different model systems. Comparing microglial activity seen in homeostasis, ageing, disease, and injury allows for a more coherent understanding of when and how senescent and other harmful microglial subpopulations should be targeted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1326-1339
Number of pages14
JournalFEBS Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • TBI
  • ageing
  • microglia
  • neurodegenerative disease
  • senescence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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