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IIIA. Oligodendrocytes - structure/function

A. Characteristics of normal oligodendrocytes

Oligodendrocytes have small amounts of cytoplasm surrounding rounded nuclei, and possess only a few short processes. There are two main types:

  • satellites around neurons in the gray matter
  • myelin-forming cells in the white matter

There are differences in myelin formation differences in CNS (brain, spinal cord) and in peripheral nervous system (cranial nerves, peripheral nerves).

Oligodendrocytes form myelin in the CNS and one cell may provide many segments of myelin sheaths

Schwann cells form myelin in the peripheral nervous system and one cell provides only one myelin sheath segment.

Three oligodendrocyte nuclei in the gray matter are shown at the right (small dark nuclei).
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