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Methods Enzymol. 2006;419:3-23.

Neural stem cell isolation and characterization.

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Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.


Throughout the process of development and continuing into adulthood, stem cells function as a reservoir of undifferentiated cell types, whose role is to underpin cell genesis in a variety of tissues and organs. In the adult, they play an essential homeostatic role by replacing differentiated tissue cells "worn off" by physiological turnover or lost to injury or disease. As such, the discovery of such cells in the adult mammalian central nervous system (CNS), an organ traditionally thought to have little or no regenerative capacity, was most unexpected. Nonetheless, by employing a novel serum-free culture system termed the neurosphere assay, Reynolds and Weiss demonstrated the presence of neural stem cells in both the adult (Reynolds and Weiss, 1992) and embryonic mouse brain (Reynolds et al., 1992). Here we describe how to generate, serially passage, and differentiate neurospheres derived from both the developing and adult brain, and provide more technical details that will enable one to achieve reproducible cultures, which can be passaged over an extended period of time.

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