Emerging technologies to study glial cells

Hélène Hirbec*, Nicole Déglon, Lynette C. Foo, Inbal Goshen, Jaime Grutzendler, Emilie Hangen, Tirzah Kreisel, Nathalie Linck, Julien Muffat, Sara Regio, Sybille Rion, Carole Escartin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Development, physiological functions, and pathologies of the brain depend on tight interactions between neurons and different types of glial cells, such as astrocytes, microglia, oligodendrocytes, and oligodendrocyte precursor cells. Assessing the relative contribution of different glial cell types is required for the full understanding of brain function and dysfunction. Over the recent years, several technological breakthroughs were achieved, allowing “glio-scientists” to address new challenging biological questions. These technical developments make it possible to study the roles of specific cell types with medium or high-content workflows and perform fine analysis of their mutual interactions in a preserved environment. This review illustrates the potency of several cutting-edge experimental approaches (advanced cell cultures, induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived human glial cells, viral vectors, in situ glia imaging, opto- and chemogenetic approaches, and high-content molecular analysis) to unravel the role of glial cells in specific brain functions or diseases. It also illustrates the translation of some techniques to the clinics, to monitor glial cells in patients, through specific brain imaging methods. The advantages, pitfalls, and future developments are discussed for each technique, and selected examples are provided to illustrate how specific “gliobiological” questions can now be tackled.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1692-1728
Number of pages37
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020

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© 2020 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


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