Microenvironmental Determinants of Adult Neural Stem Cell Proliferation and Lineage Commitment in the Healthy and Injured Central Nervous System
The discovery of neural stem cells (NSC) which ensure continuous neurogenesis in the adult mammalian brain, has led to a conceptual revolution in basic neuroscience and to high hopes for clinical nervous tissue repair. However, several research issues remain to address before neural stem cells can be harnessed for regenerative therapies. The presence of NSC in a nervous structure is demonstrated in vitro by primary culture of dissociated adult nervous tissue in the presence of the specific mitogens EGF and bFGF. This leads to spherical masses of proliferating cells endowed with capacities for self-renewal and, after growth factor removal, differentiation into the three characteristic cell types of nervous tissue (neurons, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes). In vivo, neurogenesis per se, i.e. production of new neurons, occurs only in a small subset of NSC-endowed structures. The production of oligodendrocytes, i.e. myelinating glial cells, is similarly restricted. Such in vivo restrictions were formally demonstrated to arise from the tissular microenvironnement, which led to the emerging concept of “neurogenic niche”. In this context, major challenges now consist in identifying the nature of tissue- specific extracellular signals that determine lineage commitment of NSC progeny, understanding why NSCs display weak in vivo reactivity to lesions compared to other stem cell types in adults, and identifying the factors behind the very high resistance to tumorigenesis displayed by NSCs. Altogether, the current data offer hope for the future use of adult NSCs in regenerative therapies, provided that tissue-specific signals are identified in view of counteracting the intrinsic repression of new cell genesis and/or stimulating endogenous NSC recruitment to lesion sites.
Keywords: Adult neurogenesis, cancer, plasticity, neurodegenerative diseases, growth factors, mitogens
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