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Sonia Garel

Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France


The many roles of microglia in brain wiring : a developmental perspective


Microglia, the main resident immune cells of the brain, can undergo major cellular and transcriptomic changes, a remarkable feature observed during development, ageing and disease. Over the past decades, microglia were shown to key and diverse roles in brain wiring and their dysfunction has been linked to the etiology of almost all brain disorders, from neurodevelopment to neurodegeneration. Thus, grasping how and when microglia shape circuits is important for both neurobiologists and clinicians.

Our goal is to explore the contribution of microglia to early brain development, when these cells constitute a main glial population. Here, we will summarize published and unpublished work highlighting emerging roles of microglia in the construction of the developing brain, including a novel role in the maintenance of tissue integrity during embryonic morphogenesis. We will discuss the implications for neurodevelopmental disorders and, more broadly, the interest of using normal development to decrypt the kaleidoscope of microglial activities and states.    


Sonia Garel is a developmental neurobiologist. She currently heads a team at the Institut of Biology of the Ecole Normale Superieure (IBENS) in Paris and is a Professor at the College de France. Her research focuses on the mechanisms that control the assembly of cortical circuits during development, with a particular interest on the roles of microglia, interactions with the immune system and environmental signals, such as the microbiota. After obtaining a PhD in developmental biology in Paris, she did a postdoctoral stay at UCSF and joined the IBENS, where she has headed the “Brain Development and Plasticity” team since 2008. Her work has been rewarded by several awards and recognitions including the European Young Investigator Award (EURYI), the ERC consolidation program, the Antoine Lacassagne Prize, the Grand Prize of the NRJ-Institut de France Foundation, and she is a member of the EMBO. In 2020, Sonia Garel was elected professor at the College de France on the "Neurobiology and Immunity" chair.