Are these underappreciated cells, which may be found in the heart, spleen and lungs? Nerve cells have long been the stars of the brain’s theatre, bringing mental scenes to life with their electrical and chemical performances. Glial cells, on the other hand, make up a large portion of the cellular players in the human brain, probably the supporting cast and stagehands.
However, evidence has accumulated in recent decades indicating glia are more than just background characters who keep the show running. They are involved in many of the brain’s most important functions, including remembering, learning, and thinking.
Glia’s story now has a surprising new setting: beyond the brain, according to recent study. Glia populations in the spleen, spleen, lungs, and other organs are mysterious. However, no one is sure how they’ll fit into the story. Early indications suggest that the story will be gripping.
Already, tantalizing hints about what these cells are up to are pouring in. For example, glia appears to aid in the regulation of heartbeat. Glia in the spleen are located between nerve cells and immunological cells, making them an ideal location to affect the link between health and stress. It’s unclear what glia do in the lungs, but whatever it is, it appears to be vital, as early trials reveal – mice without lung glia perish.
Discovery of New Glial Cell
“The discovery of these new glial cell types in unique organs should hopefully set off a lot of lightbulbs,” says Sarah Ackerman, a neuroscientist in St. Louis. Ackerman, like most glia researchers, focuses on glia inside the brain.
“The discovery of these new glial cell types in unique organs should hopefully set off a lot of lightbulbs,” says Sarah Ackerman, a neurobiologist in St. Louis. Ackerman, like most glia researchers, focuses on glia within the brain.
The handful of new studies that look at far-flung glia have a lot of promise for her. “It’s going to be a revelation that specialized glia exist in all of these organs, supporting not only the function of the neurons but also the overall health of the organ.”
Glia’s Cell Outside the Brain
Some scientists believe that better understanding the roles of glia outside the brain could lead to better treatments for heart disease, immune system difficulties, and potentially lung cancer.
Tawaun Lucas, a neuroimmunology’s at Genentech in San Francisco, says, “If we continue to disregard these cells, it will only slow us down.” He just discovered new information regarding glia in the spleens of mice.
It’s too early to say how crucial glia outside the brain will prove to be. Perhaps these glia studies are the start of a new field of study. Perhaps the secret will never be solved. “It remains to be seen what connection it will have to the traditional world of glia as we know it,” says Bruce Ransom, a neurologist and neuroscientist at the City University of Hong Kong and editor in chief of the scholarly journal Glia.
Nonetheless, the possible plotlines of these newly characterized glia groupings are intriguing. “We’re always on the lookout for that tiny aperture where you can widen and see something extremely essential,” Ransom adds. “That’s a possibility in this situation.”
The immune system collides with the neurological system.
Glia are named after glue, a sticky substance used to keep other, more important things together. Various glia in the brain provide a great deal of support. Nerve cells are supplied by glia called astrocytes. Invaders are combated by microglia. In addition, oligodendrocytes coat nerve fibers in a fatty material known as myelin. Glia are now known to perform considerably more complex functions, including as modifying the signals that travel between nerve cells, regulating nerve cell growth, and pruning neuronal connections known as synapses.
Outside of the brain, scientists have a decent understanding of the functions of various glia. For example, enteric glia helps the gut digest food, while Schwann cells, which are sisters to the brain’s oligodendrocytes, distribute myelin on peripheral nerves to assist speed up communications. According to a study published in Science in 2019, specific Schwann cells in the skin trigger pain feelings. Glia in other organs, such as the spleen glia that fascinate Lucas, are less well understood. The cells sometimes share similarities with various types of glia, making naming this glia difficult. For the time being, this outsider glia are classified as either no myelinating Schwann cells or satellite glia.
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