Glial cells

Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 11 Jun 2018

Glial cells, or neuroglia, are cells that surround the neurons of the central nervous system embedded between them, providing both structural and physiological support 1-3.  Together they account for almost half of the total mass 1 and 90% of all cells of the central nervous system 3. These numbers are now contentious as a novel cell counting technique known as 'isotopic fractionation' has shown that the ratio between glial cells and neurons is actually one-to-one 4.

Glial cells are broadly divided into macroglia and microglia. Each cell type has specific distribution and function. 

  1. macroglia
    1. astrocytes
    2. oligodendrocytes
    3. ependymal cells
  2. microglia

History and etymology

The term glia is from the Ancient Greek for "glue", as initially these cells were thought to merely act as supporting structures for neurons.

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