The glia response after peripheral nerve injury: A comparison between Schwann cells and olfactory ensheathing cells and their uses for neural regenerative therapies

Matthew J. Barton*, James St. John, Mary Clarke, Alison Wright, Jenny Ekberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
118 Downloads (Pure)


The peripheral nervous system (PNS) exhibits a much larger capacity for regeneration than the central nervous system (CNS). One reason for this difference is the difference in glial cell types between the two systems. PNS glia respond rapidly to nerve injury by clearing debris from the injury site, supplying essential growth factors and providing structural support; all of which enhances neuronal regeneration. Thus, transplantation of glial cells from the PNS is a very promising therapy for injuries to both the PNS and the CNS. There are two key types of PNS glia: olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), which populate the olfactory nerve, and Schwann cells (SCs), which are present in the rest of the PNS. These two glial types share many similar morphological and functional characteristics but also exhibit key differences. The olfactory nerve is constantly turning over throughout life, which means OECs are continuously stimulating neural regeneration, whilst SCs only promote regeneration after direct injury to the PNS. This review presents a comparison between these two PNS systems in respect to normal physiology, developmental anatomy, glial functions and their responses to injury. A thorough understanding of the mechanisms and differences between the two systems is crucial for the development of future therapies using transplantation of peripheral glia to treat neural injuries and/or disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number287
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


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