Eyiyemisi Damisah, MD: The Cell Death Processes in the Brain


The assistant professor of neurosurgery at Yale School of Medicine discussed the current understanding of the process of cell death in the brain, and what players are involved in the removal of dead cells.

“When we think about professional phagocytes in the brain, it’s not just the microglia that are working. Astrocytes and microglia work differently and have their own ways of working, but they work together.”

A recent study conducted by Eyiyemisi Damisah, MD, assistant professor of neurosurgery, Yale School of Medicine, and colleagues, used photochemical and viral methodologies to induce death in single cells and observe the process with precise spatiotemporal resolution. All told, they attempted to better understand the role players in the removal process of cell death.

As Damisah explained to NeurologyLive, the observations suggest that this process may be a critical one to understand as it pertains to possibly aiding in the future treatment of neurodegenerative disease. She and colleagues observed the 2 major players that work in unison, astrocytes and microglia, and assessed their roles in the removal of these particles of dead cells.

In this interview, Damisah explained the observed processes of astrocytes, which rapidly polarized and engulfed numerous small dendritic apoptotic bodies, and microglia, which migrated and engulfed the soma and apical dendrites. She also dissected what still needs to be done to understand the how this process may be explored in neurodegenerative disease.


Damisah EC, Hill RA, Rai A, et al. Astrocytes and microglia play orchestrated roles and respect phagocytic territories during neuronal corpse removal in vivo. Science Advances. 2020;6(26):eaba3239. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aba3239.

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