We here propose an updated concept of stem cells (SCs), with an emphasis on neural stem cells (NSCs). The conventional view, which has touched principally on the essential property of lineage multipotency (e.g., the ability of NSCs to differentiate into all neural cells), should be broadened to include the emerging recognition of biofunctional multipotency of SCs to mediate systemic homeostasis, evidenced in NSCs in particular by the secretion of neurotrophic factors. Under this new conceptual context and taking the NSC as a leading example, one may begin to appreciate and seek the “logic” behind the wide range of molecular tactics the NSC appears to serve at successive developmental stages as it integrates into and prepares, modifies, and guides the surrounding CNS micro- and macro-environment towards the formation and self-maintenance of a functioning adult nervous system. We suggest that embracing this view of the “multipotency” of the SCs is pivotal for correctly, efficiently, and optimally exploiting stem cell biology for therapeutic applications, including reconstitution of a dysfunctional CNS.
Keywords: Stem cells, Neural stem cells, Multipotency, Neurotrophic factors, Neural Repair, Spinal Cord Injury, central nervous system (CNS), oligodendroglia, biofunctional multipotency
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