Pathophysiological processes of neurodegenerative diseases are not clearly defined. However, an important body of evidence points toward the role of various inflammatory processes. The microglial cell is the main representative of the immune system in the central nervous system (CNS). This cell type can sense foreign or harmful pathogens and trigger its own activation and the generation of neuroinflammatory processes through phagocytosis and the release of cytokines, in order to maintain the cellular microenvironment. However, after maintaining a permanent state of activation due to sustained stimulation over time, microglial cells may generate a focus of persistent inflammation that in some cases precedes or enhances the neurodegenerative process. Thus, neuroinflammatory microenvironment becomes toxic and harmful for the neuronal cell, which degenerates and releases various factors that in turn activate the inflammatory response of microglia, potentiating the neurodegenerative cycle. In this chapter, we discuss the evidence on the role of microglial cell activation in neurodegenerative conditions and the association between neuroinflammatory processes and age-related neurological diseases. Finally, we outline how this new approach can help us to find new ways to understand neurodegenerative processes and to orientate the search for new therapies.
Part of the book: Update on Dementia