Glial cells, long thought to be supporting actors to neurons, play a crucial role of their own in regulating neuronal activity, according to a study published in Science this week. The study's results suggest that glial cells provide the link between neurons and the vasculature in the brain and central nervous system, and posit that the nervous system is controlled in a more complex manner than previously thought. "For a hundred years, we have known that glia existed," said linkurl:Mriganka Sur;http://www.mit.edu/~msur/ of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the study's main author. "We had very little idea what they do." At the turn of the 19th century, Spanish anatomist Santiago Ramon y Cajal used silver staining to identify neurons and glia as distinct cell types in the brain. The activity of neurons has been extensively studied electrophysiologically, but "because glia do not have action potentials, they were invisible to microelectrodes," said...
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