Thursday, 1 December 2011

Education. Espresso Pathology: Nerve Cells

To avoid the jargon and explain what we see under the microscope I am posting Espresso Facts of Pathology, which is the study of disease. Some of you will know this already, some may find it too simplististic, but some won't (constructive comments please)

As well as the microscope pictures I will post pictures of cells I have knitted. This may sound a bit funny, but woolly science has been developed to help get the science behind our messages across.





Espresso Pathology - Fact no 1. Nerves

First we must get an idea of the size. Imagine an tree and now ..... imagine a tree on a very small scale.... small enough for there to be millions in your brain.... OK? Now there you are. The second thing to think of is the scale, so image a motorway from Amsterdam to Paris. The nerve cell body is in Amsterdam and the end of the long branch will be in Paris - a long way to send a message but for a neuron this would only take a few milliseconds. Don't you wish the regular post was that good?

Nerves transmit the nerve impulses (information) around the body. Some of the problems in someone with MS is that problems with transmitting the nerve impulses cause the symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis

Espresso Pathology
- Fact no 2. Oligodendrocytes

Cells in the brain are often named by a description of the cell so oligodendrocyte means few (oligo), dendro (branches) cyte (cell). In one of my previous posts I liken it to an octopus.
These oligodendrocytes are the cells that make the myelin, the proteins necessary to protect the nerve cells. These cells are damaged in MS and when they die, as some of them do in MS, the myelin is lost also, by a process known as demyelination.

Espresso Pathology - Fact no 3. Astrocyte
Astrocytes maintain a healthy environment within the brain and mop-up nerve transmitters and also help form the blood brain barrier, which normally keeps blood products and white blood cells out of the brain. In MS they divide and become activated (gliosis) and form the scar (sclerosis) which gives MS its name

Espresso Pathology - Fact no 4. Microglia
Microglia are the sentinnels of the immune system and are constantly moving their arms to sense if there environment around them to sense if sometime such as a bacteria or virus is there.

They can become activated and send signals to the blood vessels to signal for help of other white blood cells such as T cells, B cells and monocytes. When monocytes leave the blood they are called macrophages and they eat any infection or debris and clean up the damage that the immune cells may cause.

We can now build up ideas about the pathology of MS.

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