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NPJ Regen Med. 2017 Oct 23;2:29. doi: 10.1038/s41536-017-0033-0. eCollection 2017.

Neuronal replacement therapy: previous achievements and challenges ahead.

Grade S1,2, Götz M1,2,3.

Author information

1
Physiological Genomics, Biomedical Center, Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich, 82152 Planegg-Martinsried, Germany.
2
Institute of Stem Cell Research, Helmholtz Center Munich, German Research Center for Environmental Health, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany.
3
SYNERGY, Excellence Cluster of Systems Neurology, Biomedical Center, Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich, 82152 Planegg-Martinsried, Germany.

Abstract

Lifelong neurogenesis and incorporation of newborn neurons into mature neuronal circuits operates in specialized niches of the mammalian brain and serves as role model for neuronal replacement strategies. However, to which extent can the remaining brain parenchyma, which never incorporates new neurons during the adulthood, be as plastic and readily accommodate neurons in networks that suffered neuronal loss due to injury or neurological disease? Which microenvironment is permissive for neuronal replacement and synaptic integration and which cells perform best? Can lost function be restored and how adequate is the participation in the pre-existing circuitry? Could aberrant connections cause malfunction especially in networks dominated by excitatory neurons, such as the cerebral cortex? These questions show how important connectivity and circuitry aspects are for regenerative medicine, which is the focus of this review. We will discuss the impressive advances in neuronal replacement strategies and success from exogenous as well as endogenous cell sources. Both have seen key novel technologies, like the groundbreaking discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells and direct neuronal reprogramming, offering alternatives to the transplantation of fetal neurons, and both herald great expectations. For these to become reality, neuronal circuitry analysis is key now. As our understanding of neuronal circuits increases, neuronal replacement therapy should fulfill those prerequisites in network structure and function, in brain-wide input and output. Now is the time to incorporate neural circuitry research into regenerative medicine if we ever want to truly repair brain injury.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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