Since the discovery of endogenous progenitor cells in two brain regions in the adult, the notion that progenitor cells might be useful for repairing damaged neurons or replacing dead neurons has gone from fiction to a reality, at least in the laboratory setting. Progenitor cells have the unique ability to be able to produce new neurons in response to endogenous and exogenous cues from their microenvironment in the brain and from the environment of the organism. However, in models of several disorders and insults the regenerative potential of the central nervous system need external enhancing. In this review we begin by focussing on the developments in the field of neurobiology that have led to the specific study of neural progenitor cell biology. In particular we discuss the two germinal niches, the subventricular zone and the subgranular zone, as well as how various neurological diseases affect these niches. We furthermore try to define primary progenitor cell disorders and secondary progenitor cell responses. The second part of this review focuses on proteomic approaches for studying progenitor cells. These techniques allow the array of proteins that are expressed by progenitor cells to be determined and further more allow comparisons between diseased and normal cells or treated and untreated cell populations. If we can induce neural progenitor cells to generate functional neurons in the central nervous system (CNS) then the burden of neurological disorders may be eased in the future. The advances in proteomic technology have and will enable further understanding of the regulatory processes in these cells so that progenitor cell integration and differentiation can be enhanced. Hopefully an increase in knowledge of progenitor cell biology will have a major impact on clinical practice.
Keywords: Progenitor cells, proteomics, mass spectrometry, neurodegeneration, two-dimensional gel electrophoresis, subventricular zone, subgranular zone, brain
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