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This illustration is intended to provide neuroscience students an overview of specialized brain cells called microglia, by distilling complex, growing research into a concise and memorable poster. A defining characteristic of microglia is their ability to transform dramatically and take on different shapes and functions to monitor the neuronal environment and respond quickly to problems. Two main states are depicted in this illustration: a highly-branched “surveying” form, and an “active” phagocytic form. The lower right inset presents an example of an important molecular interaction thought to regulate this microglial activity, between ATP released from damaged neurons and purinergic receptors (trimeric ion channels). In the background, a capillary of the blood-brain barrier enveloped by astrocytic foot processes provides environmental context and a sense of scale. 3D models used: PDB IDs 4DW1, 4DW0; PubChem CID 5957. A personal portfolio piece.
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