Schwann Cell


What are Schwann Cells?

Download PDF
Bookmark added to your notes.
View Notes

Schwann cells, also known as neurolemmocytes, are the primary glia of the peripheral nervous system, titled after German physiologist Theodor Schwann (PNS). Satellite cells, enteric glia, olfactory ensheathing cells, and glia that live at sensory nerve endings, including the Pacinian corpuscle, are all examples of glial cells in the PNS.

Myelinating and non-myelinating Schwann cells are the 2 kinds of Schwann cells. The myelin sheath is formed by myelinating Schwann cells wrapping across the axons of sensory and motor neurons. Throughout the downstream portion of the human dystrophin gene, the Schwann cell promoter is found, which results in shortened transcripts that are synthesised in a tissue-specific fashion. The regulatory mechanisms of myelination are regulated by feedforward interactions of specific genes throughout the production of the PNS, affecting transcriptional cascades and forming the morphology of myelinated nerve fibres.

All essential aspects of peripheral nerve biology have been stated below:-

  • The conduction of nerve impulses across axons, 

  • nerve growth and regeneration, 

  • trophic support for neurons, 

  • production of the nerve extracellular matrix, 

  • regulation of neuromuscular synaptic function, and 

  • presentation of antigens to T-lymphocytes.

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]


Schwann cells are a type of glial cell that keeps myelinated and unmyelinated peripheral nerve fibres intact. Schwann cells produce the myelin sheath in myelinated axons. The sheath does not follow the contours of the body. Individual myelinating Schwann cells occupy approximately 1 mm of an axon, likening to around 1000 Schwann cells per metre of axon duration. The nodes of Ranvier seem to be the spaces amongst adjacent Schwann cells.

The acetylated glycolipid 9-O-Acetyl GD3 ganglioside is present in the cell membranes of several different kinds of vertebrate cells. Schwann cells release 9-O-acetyl GD3 throughout peripheral nerve regeneration.

Define Sheath: The neurilemma/neurilemmal sheath (often recognized as neurolemma, Schwann's sheath, or Schwann's sheath) is the nucleated cytoplasmic layer that surrounds the axon of the neuron in Schwann cells (often recognized as neurilemmocytes). It is the nerve fibre’s outer covering in the peripheral nervous system.

Schwann Cell Function:

The myelin sheath is used by the vertebrate nervous system to provide protection and to reduce membrane capacitance throughout the axon. In a mechanism known as saltatory conduction, the action potential moves from node to node, increasing conduction velocity by equal to ten times despite increasing the axonal diameter. Schwann cells seem to be the PNS's analogues of oligodendrocytes in the CNS (central nervous system). With the exception of oligodendrocytes, furthermore, each myelinating Schwann cell protects one axon. Such arrangement allows for saltatory conduction for action potentials through Ranvier node repropagation. Myelination speeds up the process of conduction as well as saves energy in this manner.

Schwann cells that are non-myelinating have been implicated in the preservation of axons and are important for neuronal survival. Few type Remak bundles by clustering across smaller axons.

Regeneration: Schwann cells are well-known for their ability to aid nerve regeneration. Numerous axons in the PNS are myelinated by Schwann cells and form nerves. When a nerve is damaged, the Schwann cells help digest the axons (phagocytosis). The Schwann cells could then use this mechanism to direct regeneration by creating a tunnel that contributes to the target neurons. This tunnel is recognized as the Büngner band, which functions as an endoneurial tube and serves as a guide track towards regenerating axons. In ideal conditions, the stump of the weakened axon will sprout, and all those sprouts that develop via the Schwann-cell "tunnel" grow at a rate of about 1 mm per day.

Over time, the amount of regeneration slows. With the aid of Schwann cells, successful axons may reconnect with the muscles or organs that were earlier operated, however, which specificity is lost and errors are common, particularly once long distances were included. Schwann cells have also been linked to preferential motor reinnervation due to their capacity to influence axon regeneration. Axons die when Schwann cells are stopped from equating with them. If Schwann cells aren't present to help and direct regenerating axons, they won't be able to reach their destination. They've been discovered to be ahead of the growth cones.

Schwann Cells vs Oligodendrocytes

Oligodendrocytes, also known as oligodendroglia, are a kind of neuroglia whose key responsibility in the central nervous system of certain vertebrates is to provide protection and insulation to axons, similar to what Schwann cells do in the peripheral nervous system.

The myelin sheath is formed through oligodendrocytes. A single oligodendrocyte's processes may coil across up to 50 axons, with each axon receiving approximately 1 m of myelin sheath; Schwann cells, on the other hand, could only wrap over one axon. For many adjacent axons, each oligodendrocyte generates a single segment of myelin.

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

Just the central nervous system(CNS), which includes the brain and spinal cord, contains oligodendrocytes. Initially assumed to be formed in the ventral neural tube, research seems to indicate that oligodendrocytes derive from the embryonic spinal cord's ventral ventricular zone and may possess few concentrations in the forebrain. These seem to be the CNS's last cell type to be formed. Pio del Rio Hortega was the first to discover oligodendrocytes.



For quick signal conduction, mammalian nervous systems rely on myelin sheaths that minimise ion leakage and minimize cell membrane capacitance. Saltatory transmission of action potentials happens at the nodes of Ranvier in between Schwann cells (of the PNS) and oligodendrocytes (of the CNS), which enhances impulse speed.

Moreover, myelinated axon impulse pace gradually increases through axon diameter, however unmyelinated cell impulse speed is increased just with the square root of the diameter. The thickness of the insulation should be equal to the diameter of the fibre throughout.

Metabolic Support:

Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), insulin-like growth factor-1 and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) are all generated by oligodendrocytes as well as provide trophic aid to nerve cells (IGF-1). According to the lactate shuttle hypothesis, they can also directly supply metabolites to neurons. Satellite oligodendrocytes (also known as perineuronal oligodendrocytes) are thought to be functionally different from those of other oligodendrocytes. They don't add to insulation since they're not connected to neurons through myelin sheaths. They continue to reject neurons and control the extracellular fluid.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. Explain the Demyelination Meaning.

Ans. To understand the demyelination meaning, let us first understand myelin. Myelin, a form of fatty tissue which covers and safeguards nerves in the body, is lost during demyelination. Vision disturbances, fatigue, impaired feeling, and behavioural or cognitive (thinking) disorders are all symptoms of this disorder.

Demyelination might damage the spinal cord, brain, or peripheral nerves, and this can happen as a consequence of a variety of medical conditions. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is by far the most common demyelinating disease. 

Q2. State the Myelin Sheath Function.

Ans. Below mentioned are the myelin sheath function:

  • It protects the neuron by acting as an electrical insulator, preventing electrical impulses from passing via the sheath.

  • The sheath restricts ions from entering or leaving the neuron, as well as depolarization.

  • It accelerates the conduction/transmission of the electrical impulse in the neurone since impulses cannot pass via the sheath (which serves as an electrical insulator) and must instead 'jump' between one gap throughout the myelin sheath to the next (it travels from one of the Node of Ranvier to the next Node). This is referred to as Saltatory Conduction.

Q3. Define CNS and PNS.

Ans. The central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS) are the two main components or subdivisions of the nervous system (PNS). The brain and spinal cord are the major part of the CNS whereas PNS includes the nerves that lie outside the brain and spinal cord.