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|Structure of a typical neuron|
Named after the German physiologist Theodor Schwann, Schwann cells (also referred to as neurolemmocytes) are a variety of neuroglia that mainly provide myelin insulation to axons in the peripheral nervous system of jawed vertebrates. The vertebrate nervous system relies on this myelin sheath for insulation and as a method of decreasing membrane capacitance in the axon, thus allowing for saltatory conduction to occur and for an increase in impulse speed, without an increase in axonal diameter. Non-myelinating Schwann cells are involved in maintenance of axons and are crucial for neuronal survival. Some group around smaller axons and form Remak bundles. Schwann cells are the peripheral nervous system's analogues of the central nervous system oligodendrocytes.
Schwann cells begin to form the myelin sheath in mammals during fetal development and work by spiraling around the axon, sometimes with as many as 100 revolutions. A well-developed Schwann cell is shaped like a rolled-up sheet of paper, with layers of myelin in between each coil. The inner layers of the wrapping, which are predominantly membrane material, form the myelin sheath while the outermost layer of nucleated cytoplasm forms the neurolemma. Only a small volume of residual cytoplasm communicates the inner from the outer layers. This is seen histologically as the Schmidt-Lantermann Incisure. Since each Schwann cell can cover about a millimeter (0.04 inches) along the axon, hundreds and often thousands are needed to completely cover an axon, which can sometimes span the length of a body. The gaps between the Schwann cell covered segments are the Nodes of Ranvier, important sites of ionic and other exchanges of the axon with the extracellular liquid. Unlike oligodendrocytes, myelinating Schwann cells provide insulation to only one axon (see image). This arrangement permits saltatory conduction of action potentials which greatly speeds it and saves energy.
A number of experimental studies since 2001 have implanted Schwann cells in an attempt to induce remyelination in multiple sclerosis-afflicted patients. Indeed, Schwann cells are known for their roles in supporting nerve regeneration. 
Schwann cells appear under a light microscope when immunostained with an anti-S-100 antibody (
- Diagram at clc.uc.edu
- Histology at Boston University 21301loa - "Ultrastructure of the Cell: myelinated axon and Schwann cell"
Robert O. Becker wrote The Body Electric, which describes how the Schwann Cell network describes the acupuncture meridians.
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