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Neural stem cells and strategies for the regeneration of the central nervous system.

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Department of Physiology, Keio University School of Medicine, Shinanomachi,Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan.


The adult mammalian central nervous system (CNS), especially that of adult humans, is a representative example of organs that do not regenerate. However, increasing interest has focused on the development of innovative therapeutic methods that aim to regenerate damaged CNS tissue by taking advantage of recent advances in stem cell and neuroscience research. In fact, the recapitulation of normal neural development has become a vital strategy for CNS regeneration. Normal CNS development is initiated by the induction of stem cells in the CNS, i.e., neural stem cells (NSCs). Thus, the introduction or mobilization of NSCs could be expected to lead to CNS regeneration by recapitulating normal CNS development, in terms of the activation of the endogenous regenerative capacity and cell transplantation therapy. Here, the recent progress in basic stem cell biology, including the author's own studies, on the prospective identification of NSCs, the elucidation of the mechanisms of ontogenic changes in the differentiation potential of NSCs, the induction of neural fate and NSCs from pluripotent stem cells, and their therapeutic applications are summarized. These lines of research will, hopefully, contribute to a basic understanding of the nature of NSCs, which should in turn lead to feasible strategies for the development of ideal "stem cell therapies" for the treatment of damaged brain and spinal cord tissue.

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