Current Challenges for the Advancement of Neural Stem Cell Biology and Transplantation Research
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Transplantation of neural stem cells (NSC) is hoped to become a promising primary or secondary therapy for the treatment of various neurodegenerative disorders of the central nervous system (CNS), as demonstrated by multiple pre-clinical animal studies in which functional recovery has already been demonstrated. However, for NSC therapy to be successful, the first challenge will be to define a transplantable cell population. In the first part of this review, we will briefly discuss the main features of ex vivo culture and characterisation of NSC. Next, NSC grafting itself may not only result in the regeneration of lost tissue, but more importantly has the potential to improve functional outcome through many bystander mechanisms. In the second part of this review, we will briefly discuss several pre-clinical studies that contributed to a better understanding of the therapeutic potential of NSC grafts in vivo. However, while many pre-clinical animal studies mainly report on the clinical benefit of NSC grafting, little is known about the actual in vivo fate of grafted NSC. Therefore, the third part of this review will focus on non-invasive imaging techniques for monitoring cellular grafts in the brain under in vivo conditions. Finally, as NSC transplantation research has evolved during the past decade, it has become clear that the host micro-environment itself, either in healthy or injured condition, is an important player in defining success of NSC grafting. The final part of this review will focus on the host environmental influence on survival, migration and differentiation of grafted NSC.