The plasticity of neural stem/progenitor cells allows a variety of different responses to many environmental cues. In the past decade, significant research has gone into understanding the regulation of neural stem/progenitor cell properties, because of their promise for cell replacement therapies in adult neurological diseases. Both endogenous and grafted neural stem/progenitor cells are known to have the ability to migrate long distances to lesioned sites after brain injury and differentiate into new neurons. Several chemokines and growth factors, including stromal cell-derived factor-1 and vascular endothelial growth factor, have been shown to stimulate the proliferation, differentiation, and migration of neural stem/progenitor cells, and investigators have now begun to identify the critical downstream effectors and signaling mechanisms that regulate these processes. Both our own lab and others have shown that the extracellular matrix and matrix remodeling factors play a critical role in directing cell differentiation and migration of adult neural stem/progenitor cells within injured sites. Identification of these and other molecular pathways involved in stem cell homing into ischemic areas is vital for the development of new treatments. To ensure the best functional recovery, regenerative therapy may require the application of a combination approach that includes cell replacement, trophic support, and neural protection. Here we review the current state of our knowledge about endogenous adult and exogenous neural stem/progenitor cells as potential therapeutic agents for central nervous system injuries.
Keywords: Adult neurogenesis, neural stem/progenitor cells, stem cell niche, stem cell therapy, stroke, stroke-induced neurogenesis, brain lipid binding protein-positive (BLBP), Nestin, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), metalloproteinases (MMPs)