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Hello Brain • Brain Health
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Gluey Glia

Gluey Glia

Did you know that your brain is full of glue? Well, not really. But your brain is full of cells called 'glia' which get their name because it used to be thought they were like a kind of glue that held the neurons in place.

But glia are much more important than just being placeholders. The billions of glial cells in your brain come in several different shapes and sizes, and if the neurons are like the information motorways, glia are the builders, fixers and providers of services that keep the show on the road. Glia are so important that your brain actually contains10-50 times more of them than neurons.

Contenders for the prettiest glia are the star-shaped astrocytes that help to ensure neurons get a healthy blood supply and they keep the environment around neurons favourable (comfortable).

Another type of glial cell, the oligodendrocyte, is important for making the fatty sheath that coats axons of neurons. The sheath, which is made of myelin, acts as insulation to help the electrical signals run along axons faster so the message gets across without interference from other signals. 

There are plenty of other glial cells too. Over the decades their role has probably not been as famous as that of the neurons, but scientists are constantly discovering more and more about how crucial these cells are for keeping the brain working healthily.

Illustration: Brain basics

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