Alumni News

Young Malaysian and NUS neuroscientists uncover a new role for a non-neuronal cell type, microglia, in learning and memory

Penang-born Genevieve Saw, a PhD student at the Department of Anatomy, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore (NUS), recently uncovered a new role for a non-neuronal cell type (microglia) in learning and memory. Together with her Supervisor, Associate Professor S. Thameem Dheen, they were able to show that this cell type, in addition to neurons, plays an important role in learning and memory and may be able to boost neuronal function by providing neuron with a growth factor known as the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

Memory loss and neurodegeneration of the brain have gained attention in recent years especially in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, where we have a rapidly ageing population. Thus, the need for ways to ameliorate aging-related symptoms has become an imminent issue. Currently, most studies on dementia and neurodegenerative diseases focus mainly on neurons. This study paves the way for the development of new therapeutic strategies that can be specifically targeted at this cell type.

The findings of the study were recently published on 8th November 2019 in the prestigious scientific journal, GLIA, the number one journal in glia research.

Genevieve, a former student of St George’s Girls’ School in Penang and the International School of Penang (Uplands), obtained the NUS President’s Graduate Fellowship in 2016 to pursue her doctorate in Neuroscience, after completing her Masters in Neuroscience at University College London, UK.

Updated on 03 January 2020