Myelinated fibre, Biology

Myelinated fibre

Axon is a relatively long process (also quite often referred to as nerve fibre) and can be considered as functionally specialised for conduction of excitation over considerable distances. In vertebrates the axons of high velocity neurons are covered by insulating sheaths of lipid containing myelin. This myelin is made up of special glial cells -the Schwann cells. The myelin covering is not continuous. There are tiny uninsulated gaps between adjacent Schwann cells. These are the-nodes of Ranvier. The myelin covering and nodes of Ranvier help accelerate the speed of conduction of impulses by a mechanism which we will discuss later. The terminal part of the axon branches, terminating into small ramifications whose tips form end knobs which synaptically contact with other nerve cells. In the end knobs are present characteristic structures called synaptic vesicles which contain and store chemical substances called neurotransmitters.

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Figure: Myelinated fibre

The diversity in neuron form, however so much that is there can be many variations from the generalized description given above. For example, the nerve cells called amacrine cells found in retina contain processes without a demonstrable axon.

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