Scientists Discover a Second Brain in the Gut

The number of specialized nervous system cells, namely neurons and glia present in a person’s gut is roughly equivalent to the number found in a cat’s brain.

Neurons are a type of cell that conducts the nervous system’s electrical signals. Glia, on the other hand, is not electrically active, which has made it more challenging for researchers to decipher what these cells do.

One of the leading theories was that glial cells provide passive support for neurons.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that glial cells act in a very precise way to influence the signals carried by neuronal circuits.

This discovery will pave the way for new treatments for an intestinal illness that affects as much as 15% of the U.S. population.

Regardless of the similarity, glial cells are more integral for making things are running smooth than scientists previously understood.

This new study creates a more complete picture of how the complicated enteric nervous system works. This also creates new opportunities to treat gut disorders.

“This is a way down the line, but now we can start to ask if there’s a way to target a specific type or set of glia and change their function in some way”, said Gulbransenan, MSU Foundation Professor in the College of Natural Science’s Department of Physiology.

Earlier this year, researchers also found that glia could also be involved in several other health conditions, including gut motility disorders, such as constipation, and a rare disorder known as chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction.

There are no proper treatments for these problems so it is better to probe and understand these diseases more fully. They believe this research study is going to be a central figure in developing that understanding.

Source: Medindia

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