, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 23-49

Cell death in the nervous system

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Programmed cell death is an essential process for proper neural development. Cell death, with its similar regulatory and executory mechanisms, also contributes to the origin or progression of many or even all neurodegenerative diseases. An understanding of the mechanisms that regulate cell death during neural development may provide new targets and tools to prevent neurodegeneration. Many studies that have focused mainly on insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), have shown that insulin-related growth factors are widely expressed in the developing and adult nervous system, and positively modulate a number of processes during neural development, as well as in adult neuronal and glial physiology. These factors also show neuroprotective effects following neural damage. Although some specific actions have been demonstrated to be anti-apoptotic, we propose that a broad neuroprotective role is the foundation for many of the observed functions of the insulin-related growth factors, whose therapeutical potential for nervous system disorders may be greater than currently accepted.