Establishment and properties of neural stem cell clones: plasticity in vitro and in vivo

A L Vescovi, E Y Snyder
Brain Pathology 1999, 9 (3): 569-98
The study of the basic physiology of the neural precursors generated during brain development is driven by two inextricably linked goals. First, such knowledge is instrumental to our understanding of how the high degree of cellular complexity of the mature central nervous system (CNS) is generated, and how to dissect the steps of proliferation, fate commitment, and differentiation that lead early pluripotent neural progenitors to give rise to mature CNS cells. Second, it is hoped that the isolation, propagation, and manipulation of brain precursors and, particularly, of multipotent neural stem cells (NSCs), will lead to therapeutic applications in neurological disorders. The debate is still open concerning the most appropriate definition of a stem cell and on how it is best identified, characterized, and manipulated. By adopting an operational definition of NSCs, we review some of the basic findings in this area and elaborate on their potential therapeutic applications. Further, we discuss recent evidence from our two groups that describe, based on that rigorous definition, the isolation and propagation of clones of NSCs from the human fetal brain and illustrate how they have begun to show promise for neural cell replacement and molecular support therapy in models of degenerative CNS diseases. The extensive propagation and engraftment potential of human CNS stem cells may, in the not-too-distant-future, be directed towards genuine clinical therapeutic ends, and may open novel and multifaceted strategies for redressing a variety of heretofore untreatable CNS dysfunctions.

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