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Welcome to 2 minute neuroscience, where I explain neuroscience topics in 2 minutes or
less.
In this installment I will discuss glial cells.
Glia is Greek for glue, and glial cells got this name b/c they were thought to simply
hold neurons in place.
We now know, however, that glia have many other functions.
Glial cells can be divided into two classes: microglia and macroglia.
Microglia act as the primary immune defense of the central nervous system.
They travel throughout the brain and spinal cord and remove things like damaged neurons,
pathogens, or other foreign substances.The rest of the glial cells I’ll discuss are
considered macroglia.
Astrocytes are star-shaped glial cells with many functions, which include providing nutrient
support to neurons, helping repair damage to nervous system tissue, regulating communication
between neurons, and maintaining the blood-brain-barrier, which keeps potentially toxic substances in
the blood from entering the brain.
Oligodendrocytees and schwann cells are both responsible for covering neurons with an insulatory
material called myelin.
Oligodendrocytes myelinate neurons in the central nervous system and schwann cells myelinate
neurons in the peripheral nervous system.
Ependymal cells are found in the walls of the ventricles, where they produce cerebrospinal
fluid, which then circulates around the brain, performing many functions including protecting
the brain from injury and removing waste products from the brain.
Radial glia are involved in neurogenesis and neural development.
They can give birth to new neurons and also serve as a scaffold along which new neurons
can travel from their site of origin to their final destination in the brain.
Satellite cells surround neurons in some parts of the peripheral nervous system, playing
a protective and supportive role.
Although their role is not fully understood, it is thought they might be involved with
regulating the neuronal environment of some peripheral nervous system neurons.