Eyiyemisi Damisah, MD: The Role of Astrocytes and Microglia in Cell Death


The assistant professor of neurosurgery at Yale School of Medicine spoke to the observations she and colleagues made to better understand the process of cell death and corpse removal in the brain.

“Cell death is involved in almost everything from development to aging, so I thought it was a good way to start [this research]. What happens when a cell dies in the brain?”

Cell death has been a process long known to be ever ongoing in the body. Despite being a constant through individuals’ lives, the intricacies of the process are not totally understood. Particularly, the removal process of dead cells has not been elucidated, and the coordinated interactions and roles of phagocytes during this corpse removal process even less so.

This motivated Eyiyemisi Damisah, MD, assistant professor of neurosurgery, Yale School of Medicine, and colleagues to explore how this process unfolds by developing photochemical and viral methodologies to induce death in single cells and observe the process via intravital optical imaging. The group then used these methodologies to track multicellular phagocytic interactions with precise spatiotemporal resolution.

Ultimately, their observations suggest that a precisely composed response and cross-talk between glial cells during this removal process may be a vital part of maintaining brain homeostasis. To find out more about the assessment, NeurologyLive spoke with Damisah.


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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