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Microsc Res Tech. 2002 Aug 1;58(3):216-27.

Cellular and molecular biology of ensheathing cells.

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Discipline of Anatomy and Physiology, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia 7001.


Ensheathing cells are the glial cells that envelop olfactory axons as they course from the olfactory epithelium to the bulb. They are derived from the olfactory placode and differ from the typical glia in terms of sharing the phenotypes of both astrocytes and Schwann cells. The aims of this study are to review (1) cellular characterisation of ensheathing cells in vivo and in vitro, (2) molecular insight into their growth promoting properties, and (3) their role in olfactory development and potential function as a therapeutic agent for nerve repair. Much of the characterisation of ensheathing cell property has developed from immunohistochemical studies that have been supplemented with new molecular methodologies in recent years. Many pieces of evidence clearly indicate that ensheathing cells actively produce growth-promoting molecules, which act in a paracrine and, in some cases, autocrine manner. However, a review of the available literature also suggests that there is a great deal that remains to be elucidated regarding the cell biology of ensheathing cells, for example, their rate of formation and turnover. In addition, the apparent antigenic heterogeneity as revealed by numerous in vitro studies warrants further analysis, particularly in view of the fact that in recent years these cells have been touted as a possible agent for central nerve repair. New molecular methodologies such as the microarray techniques will prove to be crucial for defining the unique characteristics of ensheathing cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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