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Brain Res Rev. 2009 Jun;61(1):1-13. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2009.03.003. Epub 2009 Apr 5.

Regeneration of the ischemic brain by engineered stem cells: fuelling endogenous repair processes.

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  • 1Laboratory of Psychoneuroimmunology, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


After ischemic brain injury various cell types including neurons, glia and endothelial cells are damaged and lose their function. Effective regeneration of brain tissue requires that all these cell types have to be replenished and combined to form a new functional network. Recent advances in regenerative medicine show the ability of stem cells to differentiate into various cell lineages. Several types of stem cells have been used to treat ischemic brain injury in rodent models including neuronal stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells and hematopoietic stem cells. Although these studies show promising results, it remains to be determined whether the beneficial effect of cell-based therapies in ischemic brain injury results from direct replacement of damaged cells by the transplanted cells. On the basis of the current literature we propose that neuroprotection by activation of anti-apoptotic mechanisms as well as improvement of the trophic milieu necessary for endogenous repair processes may be more important mechanisms underlying the improved functional outcome after stem cell treatment. Transplantation of native unmodified stem cells as such may not be sufficient to boost repair mechanisms provided by the endogenous stem cell population. An important aim of this review is to discuss the literature on the possible enhancement of regenerative function by combining stem cell transplantation with gene transduction into stem cells to enhance their regenerative and neuroprotective therapeutic potential. Finally, we briefly discuss the possibility of translation of this therapy to the clinic.

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