What are Glial cells?: Journeys to the brain

glial cells with a neuron
glial cells with a neuron

Glial cells with a neuron:

Source: Open Stax.org RICE University under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license

We know about neurons; do we know enough about Glial cells?

Glial cells outnumber neurons. And, they are very close allies of neurons. If they do not exist, neurons cannot exist.

Types of glial cells

There are three types of glial cells: Astrocytes, Microglia, and Oligodendrocytes. The diagram below illustrates them.

Glial cells:
(Image source: Wikimedia by Open Stax under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license).


As you can see, they look like stars and in contact with both neurons and the cells of the supply routes’ walls; in this case, the smallest branches of it – the capillaries. They also provide structural support to synapses. They play a crucial role in a stroke; strangely both hero and villain roles. Their members who reside as neighbours to the attacked area quickly undergo both structural and functional changes; they proliferate and form a fence. This separates the dead from the living, very much similar to the “crime scene” tapes.


This group scavenges dead cells and attacks pathogens (disease-causing microbes). Their job is to maintain a healthy environment in the brain.


This group produces myelin that sheaths around the axons of neurons. The myelin sheaths act as insulators that help send electrical current-based information faster.

Now, it is obvious that if they do not their job, there is no point in having neurons.

Radial glia

This is a special group. They act as scaffolds for baby neurons and guide them to migrate to their final destinations.

Author: Ed Jerard

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