Department of Anesthesiology

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prof. boullerneProfessor Anne Boullerne works in the Department of Anesthesiology in the College of Medicine in the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The main interest of research in our laboratory is the cell of the central nervous system oligodendrocyte. Oligodendrocyte is a glial cell that was discovered in the 1920's by the Spaniard Pio del Rio-Hortega thanks to a new metal impregnation technique applied to brain tissue. Rio-Hortega coined the name after the shape of these cells exhibiting fewer and smaller branches than neurons and astrocytes. Oligodendrocyte translates in Greek into -oligo- for few, -dendro- for branch, and -cyte- for cell. Oligodendrocytes are wrapping an insulating sheath around the axon, which is the cellular process of neuron conducting the electric impulse. The insulating sheath was named myelin by the German pathologist Rudolf Virchow in 1858 because of its resemblance to marrow -myelos- in Greek. The insulation of myelin is interrupted at regular intervals, called nodes of Ranvier after the French histologist Louis-Antoine Ranvier who observed them in 1878. The interrupted myelin conveys the electric impulse into saltatory conduction which was a major step forward in evolution. The saltatory conduction had two consequences, one was to increase greatly the velocity of electric conduction, and the other to decrease the diameter of axons as a result of increased velocity. This evolution toward axons of smaller diameter is akin to a miniaturization of cell component. Without oligodendrocyte and the saltatory conduction, our brain would be much less complex because neurons and their axons would be significantly larger. Oligodendrocyte led to an increased performance of the organ brain.