Key Difference – Glial Cells vs Neurons
The nervous system of the body is of two components: central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS). The CNS is composed of the brain and spinal cord. Motor neurons, autonomic nervous system, and enteric nervous system are present in the PNS. The nervous system involves the transmission of signals, both electrical and chemical, in order to regulate different voluntary and involuntary actions of the body. The nervous system is composed of two different cell types: neurons and glial cells. Neurons are the basic structural units of the nervous system. Neurons are involved in the transmission of electrical and chemical signals along the body to control voluntary and involuntary actions whilst glial cells perform a role in regulating homeostasis of the nervous system which provides adequate protection and support in the functioning of the nervous system. This is the key difference between glial cells and neurons.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What are Glial Cells
3. What are Neurons
4. Similarities Between Glial Cells and Neurons
5. Side by Side Comparison – Glial Cells vs Neurons in Tabular Form
What are Glial Cells?
Glial cells, also known as neuroglia, are a type of supportive cells in the central nervous system. They are non-neural cells involved in regulating homeostasis in CNS and PNS and provide support and protection to the functioning of the nervous system.
Glial cells are of two types: microglia and macroglia. Microglia is considered as special macrophages that have the ability to perform phagocytosis and destroy pathogens. Macroglia help in the synthesis of myelin and provide adequate nutrition support to the nervous system. Microglia cells include oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, ependymal cells, Schwann cells and satellite cells. Glial cells are the most abundant cell type present in the CNS. Astrocytes are the most numerous type of glial cell in the brain.
Glial cells have different functions in both CNS and PNS. They surround neurons and hold neurons in place and provide adequate nutrients and oxygen to them. Neuroglia also insulates neurons by forming insulating layers around the axons, destroying potential pathogens and removing dead neurons from the nervous system.
What are Neurons?
A neuron is the structural unit of the nervous system. It has the ability to conduct both electrical and chemical impulses throughout the body in order to control voluntary and involuntary actions. The exchange of signals between neurons is accomplished by the presence of special structures called synapses, connecting with each other to form a network of neurons. A typical neuron consists of a cell body known as ‘soma,’ dendrites and an axon which can be myelinated with Schwann cells or unmyelinated. The neuron is an important structure of the CNS and autonomic nervous system of PNS.
Neurons are of many types according to the function they perform. Sensory neurons conduct nerve impulses by the stimuli received on sensory organs and transmit into the brain. Motor neurons conduct signals from the brain to the relevant muscle, organ or gland. Intermediate neurons connect other neurons together inside the brain and the spinal cord.
What are the Similarities Between Glial Cells and Neurons?
- Both neurons and glial cells are a part of the nervous system.
- Glial cells and neurons have a resting potential.
What is the Difference Between Glial Cells and Neurons?
Glial Cells vs Neurons
|Glial cells are secondary supporting cells which are involved in the regulation of homeostasis of the nervous system and protection.||Neurons are the basic structural units of the nervous system which are involved in the transmission of impulses throughout the body during coordination of voluntary and involuntary actions.|
|Transmission of Impulses|
|Glial cells do not conduct electrical impulses.||Neurons transmit both electrical and chemical impulses.|
|In glial cells, axons and nissl granules are absent.||In neurons, axons and nissl granules are present.|
|Glial cells have the ability to undergo cell division with age.||Neurons are non-renewable. They lack the ability of regeneration and keep to their original form till death.|
|The glial cells surround neurons and regulate homeostasis of the nervous system, support and protect it.||Neurons transmit nerve impulses to coordinate voluntary and involuntary actions.|
Summary – Glial Cells vs Neurons
The nervous system is composed of two components: the CNS and the PNS. Neurons are the basic structural units of the nervous system and are involved in the transmission of nerve impulses throughout the body. Glial cells perform a supporting role in the functioning of the nervous system by regulating homeostasis. Neurons of are three types: motor neurons, sensory neurons, and intermediate neurons. Glial cells are different types; oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, ependymal cells, Schwann cells, microglia, and satellite cells. Glial cells do not transmit nerve impulses, but neurons transmit both chemical and electrical signals throughout the body. This is the difference between glial cells and neurons.
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2. Purves, Dale. “Neuroglial Cells.” Neuroscience. 2nd edition. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. Available here. 04 Aug. 2017.
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2. “Neuron” (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia