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Ependymal cells: types and functions in the body

Ependymal cells: types and functions in the body

May 24, 2022

The functioning of the nervous system depends on a large number of specialized cells that, inside or outside the brain, are responsible for working together with the rest of the body to keep its functioning active. Ependymal cells are one of the elements that play a key role in this .

Next, we will see what ependymal cells are and how they are related to the activity of the brain and the nervous system in general.

  • Related article: "Parts of the human brain (and functions)"

Ependymal cells: definition

A type of epithelial cell type is known as ependymal cells that is associated with the cavities of the body through which the cerebrospinal fluid circulates. It is also part of the glial cells, which share space with neurons in the nervous system, although its function is not to transmit signals at full speed.


Thus, ependymal cells are part of a larger family of microscopic elements, among which components we find, for example, microglia or astrocytes, all of them representatives of the neuroglia .

What is your function?

Currently it is believed that the main functions of ependymal cells are two.

On the one hand, by joining together they create the membranes that keep cerebrospinal fluid circulating through the spinal cord ependymal canal (a kind of conduit that runs through the spine) and the cerebral ventricles preventing it from spilling through other tissues and into areas of the body where it should not be. In other words, they cover the circulation spaces of this substance.


On the other, it is believed that the ependymal cells make possible the creation of the cerebrospinal fluid itself, as we will see. This is very important, because although the latter is a relatively poor substance in a variety of valuable compounds for cells (if we compare it with blood), it allows the whole nervous system to function well and have extra protection against the possible incidents.

What is cerebrospinal fluid?

To understand well the role that the ependymal cells play in our organism it is necessary to understand why there is cerebrospinal fluid circulating through our nervous system. Cerebrospinal fluid has the following functions:

1. Amortigua

This substance forms a kind of liquid mattress that directly protects many of the areas of the nervous system (which, remember, is full of fragile and delicate parts) of the blows. By leaving a space between tissues in which there is a substance similar to water, the deformation produced by the impacts does not worsen the condition of other areas : acts as a firewall


2. It serves to regulate the levels of substances

This liquid creates a medium in which they are expelled and several components that reject or need the cells of the body are captured. A) Yes, contribute to maintain the balance of the correct functioning of the organism .

3. It allows to capture useful materials for cells

In the cerebrospinal fluid it is possible to find elements that the cells can use as raw material to maintain their functioning, repair, grow, etc.

4. Shape the nervous system

The presence of ventricles with liquid detro form a kind of "soft" skeleton that shapes this structure of the nervous system and allows it to always be maintained more or less with the same disposition.

Types of ependymal cells

There are after types of ependymal cells, each one with its characteristics, location in the nervous system and way of functioning. These are tanicites, ependymocytes and choroidal epithelial cells .

6. Tanicitos

Tanicites are ependymal cells that cover the walls of the third ventricle, deep in the brain, very close to a structure of the nervous system known as diencephalon . It is believed that among its main functions is to boost the cerebrospinal fluid thanks to its fine extensions.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Diencephalon: structure and functions of this brain region"

7. Ependymocytes

Ependymocytes are the most common and numerous type of ependymal cell, since they are present both in the ependymal canal and in the cerebral ventricles . Its function is very basic: create a relatively insulating barrier so that certain components do not pass from one side to another, such as a microscopic membrane.

8. Choroidal epithelial cells

The choroidal epithelial cells, finally, form the type of ependymal cell that is responsible for forming the choroid plexuses, the places where the cerebrospinal fluid is produced, as well as creating a protective and insulating barrier.

9. Disorders

Some alterations in these cells and in the tissues they form can make them appear disorders that, in certain cases, threaten the lives of patients . For example, hydrocephalus, a medical condition in which too much cerebrospinal fluid is generated and the nervous system expands, pressing on the bony walls that cover it and damaging itself in the process.

Hypertension or cranial hypotension It would be another example of what can go wrong with this system of ventricles of the nervous system, because failures in the pressure can seriously interfere in the nervous activity or even lead to death.

An important component of the nervous system

In conclusion, the ependymal cells are an example of the extent to which the functioning of the nervous system depends not only on the neurons. Around these nerve cells there are many others that, working in a coordinated manner, make it possible for the group to carry out its work as it should. In this periphery of biological processes there are still many things to discover.


Glial Cells - Neuroanatomy Basics - Anatomy Tutorial (May 2022).


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