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Frequently Asked Questions

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What are neural stem cells and how they are being used to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's?

Neural stem cells (also known as neural progenitors or neural precursor cells) are a relatively undifferentiated population(s) of cells in the central nervous system (CNS, the brain and spinal cord). These cells are thought to give rise to the broad array of specialized cells of the CNS, including both neurons and glial cells.

Long thought to be an exclusive component of the developing CNS, neural stem cells have been demonstrated to exist in the adult animal, as well as human, CNS. New research shows that these cells can be isolated and cultured. As a result, these cells are being considered as a transplantable tissue for the repair of injury such as that sustained during traumatic brain injury or stroke or the repair of pathological processes such as those seen in the genetic birth defects glutaric acidemia (Type I) or Leigh's disease.

In addition, these cells allow the detailed study of the mechanisms of neural differentiation and the genetic and environmental signals that direct the specialization of the cells into particular cell types. As of yet these cells have not been used in any human studies. In animal studies, however, promising new research suggests that implantation of the cells into brain areas that have been damaged by direct injection of specific toxins leads to some recovery of function of those brain areas. This aspect of research using neural precursors is only in its infancy.


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