The Schwann cell plays a vital role in maintaining the peripheral nervous system (PNS). Schwann cells are derived from neural crest cells, and come in two types either myelinating or non-myelinating Schwann cells. Both play a pivotal role in the maintenance and regeneration of axons of the neurons in the PNS. The regulation of Schwann cells is mediated a number of different neurotrophic factors which signal to transcription factors such as Krox-20, Oct-6 and Sox-10. Schwann cells are affected in a number of demyelinating disorders, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and Guillain-Barré Syndrome, infected by Mycobacterium leprae to cause leprosy and are responsible for the tumors seen in patients with neurofibromatosis type 1 and neurofibromatosis type 2. The Schwann cell is under investigation as a therapeutic agent for demyelinating diseases and spinal cord injuries. Further research on Schwann cells will help understand these diseases and perhaps lead to new treatments. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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