Ependymal cells, also known as somatothelioma ependymaticum, are one among the four classifications of glial cells present in the nervous system (CNS). The most important of which is the ependymus. Collectively, they constitute the ependymal that forms the thin layer that covers the cavity (or vesicles) in the back of the spinal column and the cerebral spinal cord. The ependymal cells normally secrete a liquid substance that keeps the cells and nerve tissues lubricated. However, in some cases ependymal cells can overgrow and divide uncontrollably. It leads to the formation of tumors or other disorders. Such a condition is ependymal cancer.
Types of Ependymal Cells
There are two major types of ependymal cells: interneurons and epithelial cells. Within the dermal layer of ependymal cells, the epithelial cells form the epidermis. It protects the internal parts of the body, such as the facial skin, lips, ears, teeth, and even limbs. The epidermal cilia are a type of specialized muscle that allows the movement of tiny hairs throughout the epidermis. Epithelial cells produce a fluid that cleans the facial skin, hair roots, eyelids, and other skin components. The cilia help maintain the integrity of this sensitive body part.
The Crest Effect in Ependymal Cells
When ependymal cells become overactive, they divide uncontrollably. They create new neurons (neurons) inside the dermal layers. These new neurons push the epidermal cord back towards the spine. This process, the “crest effect”, enables the new neurons to push up the epidermal cord. It results in improved vision and mobility. The new neurons also contribute to the regeneration of nerve cells that are lost when a person experiences spinal cord injury. Ependymal stem cells can provide new neurons to help replace those that are eliminated in a traumatic event.
To achieve the growth of these ependymal cells, the hypothalamus releases a small population of hormones “neuropeptide Y” (NPY). They travel through the blood to the site of injury. The neuropeptide then triggers the production of a special protein “axonectin” in the injured area. Axonectin glues the nerve ends together so that they do not just move off their roots. Instead, they remain stuck in a dense matrix, called a “reactive matrix”. With continuous axon regrowth, the production of new neurons starts to rise. This allows the injured spinal cord to heal and become more pliant. As the body heals itself, new tissue can fill the remaining spaces.
While the effects of these treatments are quite dramatic on most patients. The effects of this procedure are not permanent, as most people are born with these ependymal cells.
Treatments for Acquired Ataxia
One of the most common treatments for acquired ataxia is spinal manipulation. Spinal manipulation produces several outcomes. First, it physically removes part of your spinal cord, reducing or completely eliminating your loss of mobility. Second, when done with sufficient strength, it also opens up the blood vessels so that the nerves can move without restriction.
Unfortunately, no one yet understands why some patients retain the ability to produce new cells while others do not. In addition, the precise mechanisms involved in how spinal manipulative therapy modulates the production of ependymal cells have not been well understood. More research is needed. However, in this respect, we can say that the success of spinal manipulative therapies depends largely on whether or not the patient’s neural stem cells, or somatic cells, are able to regenerate.
What does this mean for the future of treatment for acquired conditions such as strokes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurodegenerative diseases? Spinal manipulation alone may not provide significant relief. Alternative medicine practitioners, too, have not come up with a definitive protocol. Given that the recent advances in tissue engineering, however, it is unlikely that years from now, no matter what science has to tell us, spinal manipulation will be ineffective at regenerating lost ependymal cells. We might, perhaps, find that in future generations, radial glial cells will be able to replace lost ependymal cells.
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