Glial cells supply axon nerve fibers with energy, researchers find
May 14, 2012
Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine researchers have discovered a possible mechanisms by which glial cells in the brain support axons and keep them alive.
Oligodendrocytes are a group of highly specialized glial cells in the central nervous system. They form the fat-rich myelin sheath that surrounds the nerve fibers as an insulating layer increases the transmission speed of the axons and also reduces ongoing energy consumption.
The extreme importance of myelin for a functioning nervous system is shown by the diseases that arise from a defective insulating layer, such as multiple sclerosis.
In a new study, the researchers showed that glial cells are also involved in providing glucose to replenish energy in the nerve fibers.
This coupling of glial cells could explain, among other things, why in many myelin diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, the affected demyelinized axons often suffer irreversible damage.
Ref.: Ursula Fünfschilling at al., Glycolytic oligodendrocytes maintain myelin and long-term axonal integrity, Nature, 2012, DOI: 10.1038/nature11007