Glial cells are the scaffold of the nervous system, supporting the neurons [nerve cells], providing insulation, oxygen and nutrients. Despite their usefulness neuroscientists are still unsure of glial cells’ full function. Satellite glial cells, found in the peripheral nervous system (stained green), support peripheral nerves (stained red with blue nuclei). Damage to this nervous system can lead to chronic pain – pain that persists long after the expected healing period. Recently researchers have found that following injury, glial cells – which normally react to help repair damage – may sometimes contribute to the symptoms of chronic pain. In some cases the interaction between injured nerves and their scaffolding leads to oversensitive pain neurons. There’s no cure for chronic pain – suffered by ten million people in the UK – but this research could lead to treatments for overcoming hypersensitive pain neurons, and be a step in the right direction.
Written by Mary-Clare Hallsworth
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