Glia are the most abundant cell type in the mammalian nervous system and they have vital roles in neural development, function and health. However our understanding of the biology of glia is in its infancy. How do glia develop and interact with neurons? How diverse are glial populations? What are the primary functions of glia in the mature nervous system? These questions can be addressed incisively in the Drosophila nervous system - this contains relatively few glia, which are well-defined histologically and amenable to powerful molecular-genetic analyses. Here, we highlight several developmental, morphological and functional similarities between Drosophila and vertebrate glia. The striking parallels that emerge from this comparison argue that invertebrate model organisms such as Drosophila have excellent potential to add to our understanding of fundamental aspects of glial biology.
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