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Oligodendrocytes are a supportive cell in the brain. They produces a protective coating – called myelin – which insulates the primary projecting branch of neuronal (called axons) and aids in the rapid transmission of signals in the brain.
Medical conditions associated with these cells include the inflammatory condition of multiple sclerosis. It is fair to say that oligodendrocytes have been largely neglected in the context of Parkinson’s research.
But that might be about to rapidly change.
In today’s post, we will discuss what oligodendrocytes do, and explore new research that may point towards a role for oligodendrocytes in Parkinson’s.
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The name “oligodendrocyte” comes from the Greek.
‘Oligos’ (ολιγος) meaning small or little; ‘dendros’ (δενδρος) meaning tree or bush; and ‘kytos‘ (κύτος) meaning ‘cavity’ or ‘cell’.
The name was given to cells in the brain with small branches by the Spanish neuroscientist Dr Pío del Río Hortega (1882–1945):
Pío del Río Hortega. Source: RTVE
Del Río Hortega developed a staining method that allowed him to differentiate what the great Ramón y Cajal referred to as the “third element” of cells in the brain. Initially calling them “interfascicular cells”, Del Río Hortega later changed the name to oligodendroglia.
(For those who would like to read more about Pio del Río-Hortega – click here for an excellent review)
Cool. But what do oligodendrocytes do?