Microglia and type I interferon: protective and pathogenic mechanisms


  • Dr Christopher Duncan

    Newcastle University

Project summary

A minority of people infected with viruses develop encephalitis, which is a serious infection of the brain. Treatment is available for only a few viruses and people who have the infection are left with permanent brain injury. It is not known why encephalitis occurs.

It has been discovered that some cases of encephalitis are linked to spelling errors in DNA. These mutations reduce the activity of interferon. Mutations that make the interferon pathway overactive cause similar brain damage in the absence of infection. I want to understand how interferon protects or damages brain cells. I will take skin cells from patients with these mutations and turn them into brain cells in a dish for experiments. I will also test how one of these mutations causes disease in mice. 

Understanding why encephalitis develops is the first step towards designing better treatments.