More Than Mortar: Glia as Architects of Nervous System Development and Disease

Inês Lago-Baldaia, Vilaiwan M. Fernandes, Sarah D. Ackerman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Glial cells are an essential component of the nervous system of vertebrates and invertebrates. In the human brain, glia are as numerous as neurons, yet the importance of glia to nearly every aspect of nervous system development has only been expounded over the last several decades. Glia are now known to regulate neural specification, synaptogenesis, synapse function, and even broad circuit function. Given their ubiquity, it is not surprising that the contribution of glia to neuronal disease pathogenesis is a growing area of research. In this review, we will summarize the accumulated evidence of glial participation in several distinct phases of nervous system development and organization—neural specification, circuit wiring, and circuit function. Finally, we will highlight how these early developmental roles of glia contribute to nervous system dysfunction in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number611269
JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
StatePublished - Dec 14 2020


  • circuit function
  • circuit wiring
  • glia
  • nervous system development
  • neural specification
  • neurodegenerative disorders
  • neurodevelopmental disorders


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