Glial Cell Lineages and Differentiation in the Rat Optic Nerve
My colleagues and I are interested in the problem of cell diversification in the mammalian central nervous system (CNS): how does the relatively simple neuroepithelium of the embryonic neural tube give rise to the large numbers of different types of neurons and glial cells of the adult CNS? To overcome the technical problems associated with cell identification, inaccessibility to experimental manipulation and the intimidating cellular complexity of the CNS, we have employed three strategies: (i) we have used antibodies to identify and manipulate specific types of neural cells and their precursors; (ii) we have studied cell diversification in culture so that we can manipulate the cells and their environment, and (iii) we have studied one of the simplest parts of the CNS, the rat optic nerve, which contains astrocytes and oligodendrocytes but no intrinsic neurons, so that glial cell development can be studied without the complication of neuronal development. Rather than review the experiments we have done, many of which have been published, I will briefly summarize some of the conclusions we have drawn from our studies so far.
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