Glial Cells

Astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and ependymal cells originate, as do neurons, from the primitive neuroepithe-lium of the neural tube, whereas microglial cells originate from bone marrow-derived monocytes.

Glial cells play important roles in both physiologic and pathologic conditions:

• They maintain an environment appropriate for the efficient functioning of the neurons.

• They respond to diseases by removing tissue debris, repairing damaged tissue, and taking the place of lost tissue.

• They are specifically implicated in a number of degenerative, infectious, and metabolic diseases. By displaying cytoplasmic inclusions, glial cells are important in defining several neurodegenerative diseases. Infected glial cells are pathologic markers for certain viral diseases. Furthermore, glial changes are the diagnostic features of several metabolic diseases.

• Glial cells are capable of proliferating into a variety of gliomas, which constitute the largest group of primary intracranial tumors.

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