Ependymal cells: types and functions in the body

The functioning of the nervous system depends on a large number of specialized cells which, inside or outside the brain, are responsible for working with the rest of the body to keep it functioning active. Ependymal cells are one of the elements that play a key role in this.

Below we will see what ependymal cells are and how they relate to the activity of the brain and nervous system in general.

    Ependymal cells: definition

    Ependymal cells are a type of epithelial cell associated with the cavities of the body through which cerebrospinal fluid circulates. It is also part of the glial cells, which share space with neurons in the nervous system, although its function is not to transmit signals at full speed.

    Thus, ependymal cells are part of a larger family of microscopic elements between components that we find, for example, microglia or astrocytes, all representatives of the neuroglia.

    What is its function?

    It is currently believed that the main functions of ependymal cells are two.

    On the one hand, when they come together, they create the membranes that keep cerebrospinal fluid circulating through the ependymal duct of the spinal cord (A type of duct that runs through the spine) and ventricles in the brain preventing it from spreading to other tissues and going to areas of the body where it shouldn’t be. In other words, they cover the spaces of circulation of this substance.

    On the other hand, it is believed that ependymal cells make it possible to create the cerebrospinal fluid itself, as we will see. This is very important, because although the latter is a relatively poor substance in a variety of valuable contents for cells (if we compare it with blood), it allows the whole nervous system to function well and has protection additional. possible incidents.

    What is cerebrospinal fluid?

    To fully understand the role ependymal cells play in our body, we need to understand why cerebrospinal fluid circulates in our nervous system. Cerebrospinal fluid has the following functions:

    1. It cushions

    This substance forms a sort of liquid mattress which directly protects many areas of the nervous system (which, let us remember, is full of fragile and delicate parts) from blows. By leaving a space between the tissues in which there is a substance similar to water, the deformation produced by the impacts does not worsen the condition of the other areas so much: Acts as a firewall.

    2. It is used to regulate the levels of substances

    This fluid creates an environment in which various components that expel or need the cells of the body are expelled and captured. like that, they help maintain the balance of the proper functioning of the body.

    3. It captures useful materials for cells

    In the cerebrospinal fluid, it is possible to find elements that the cells can use as a raw material to maintain their function, repair, develop, etc.

    4. Forms the nervous system

    The presence of ventricles in liquid form detro a kind of “soft” skeleton that shapes this structure of the nervous system and allows to keep it always more or less in the same arrangement.

    Types of ependymal cells

    Then there are types of ependymal cells, each with its own characteristics, location in the nervous system, and how it works. These are tanicites, ependymocytes and choroidal epithelial cells.

    6. Tanicitos

    The tanicitos are ependymal cells that cover the walls of the third ventricle, to the depths of the brain, very similar to a nervous system structure known as the diencephalon. It is believed that one of its main functions is to promote cerebrospinal fluid through its fine extensions.

      7. Ependymocytes

      Ependymocytes are the most common and numerous type of ependymal cell because they are present both in the ependymal duct and in the cerebral ventricles. Its function is very basic: to create a relatively insulating barrier so that certain components do not pass from one side to the other, like a microscopic membrane.

      8. Choroidal epithelial cells

      Choroidal epithelial cells ultimately form the type of ependymal cell responsible for forming choroidal plexuses, the sites where cerebrospinal fluid is produced, as well as creating a protective and insulating barrier.

      9. Troubles

      Certain alterations in these cells and the tissues they form can cause them to appear disorders which in some cases are life threatening to patients. For example, hydrocephalus, a medical condition in which too much cerebrospinal fluid is generated and the nervous system expands, pressing on the bony walls that line it and damaging the process.

      Cranial hypertension or hypotension this would be another example of what can go wrong with this ventricular nervous system, as pressure failures can seriously interfere with nerve activity or even lead to death.

      An important component of the nervous system

      In conclusion, ependymal cells are an example of the extent to which the functioning of the nervous system does not depend solely on neurons. Around these nerve cells, there are many others which, acting in a coordinated way, allow the whole to do its job correctly. In this periphery of biological processes, much remains to be discovered.

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