#62: Glia—The Other Brain Cells

By Nikhil Swaminathan|Thursday, December 16, 2010
glia
glia
Courtesy of Dr Sergey Kasparov

Neurons seem to be the brain’s workhorse cells, carrying out all the crucial electrical communications. The rest of the brain’s cells, called glia, were long considered little more than scaffolding. But one kind of glial cell, the star-shaped astrocyte, actually appears to take an active role.

In a report published in Science in July, British and American researchers showed that when rats inhale excess carbon dioxide, astrocytes in the brain stem sense the resulting increase in blood acidity. The team tagged these astrocytes with a protein that fluoresces in response to cellular activity and saw that the cells signaled the neurons that influence breathing. The rats then breathed more deeply, taking in more oxygen. “These guys are even more sensitive than neurons,” says Sergey Kasparov, a University of Bristol molecular physiologist.

Comment on this article
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
DSCMayCover
+

Log in to your account

X
Email address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it emailed to you.

Not registered yet?

Register now for FREE. It takes only a few seconds to complete. Register now »