Object. Given the success and limitations of human fetal primary neural tissue transplantation, neuronal stem cells (NSCs) that can be adequately expanded in culture have been the focus of numerous attempts to develop a superior source of replacement cells for restorative neurosurgery. To clarify recent progress toward this goal, the transplantation into the adult brain of NSCs, expanded in vitro before grafting, was reviewed.
Methods. Neuronal stem cells can be expanded from a variety of sources, including embryos, fetuses, adult bone marrow, and adult brain tissue. Recent investigations of each of these expanded stem cell types have generated a large body of information along with a great number of unanswered questions regarding the ability of these cells to replace damaged neurons. Expanded NSCs offer many advantages over their primary tissue predecessors, but also may exhibit different functional abilities as grafted cells. Because expanded NSCs will most likely ultimately replace primary tissue grafting in clinical trials, this review was undertaken to focus solely on this distinct body of work and to summarize clearly the existing preclinical data regarding the in vivo successes, limits, and unknowns of using each expanded NSC type when transplanted into the adult brain.
Conclusions. Embryonic stem cell—derived cells have demonstrated appropriate neuronal phenotypes after transplantation into nonneurogenic areas of the adult brain. Understanding the mechanisms responsible for this may lead to similar success with less studied adult neuronal progenitor cells, which offer the potential for autologous NSC transplantation with less risk of tumorigenesis.