Fred Gage, neuroscience, central nervous system
Central nervous system (CNS) cells have historically been characterized by low proliferation and neural differentiation, with an inability to repair or replace themselves following damage or degeneration. Widespread scientific efforts have therefore been made to outsmart the restrictive mechanism of the CNS and to address the devastation caused by this shortcoming. Although stem cells were initially thought to be tissue-specific in their ability to differentiate and proliferate, they have demonstrated the capacity to achieve functional neuronal identity when provided access to a permissive neural environment. Aguayo et al. (1980) proposed that the failure of CNS neurons to regenerate is not an intrinsic deficit of the neuron, but rather a characteristic feature of the environment that either does not support, or prevents regeneration1. My lab’s success in isolating stem cells from CNS tissues and inducing them to adopt a neuronal fate, both in vitro and in vivo upon transplantation, supports this suggestion. Therefore, others and we have made significant progress in identifying diverse sources of stem cells, determining elements required for the generation of functional CNS neurons, and exploring the potential of these cells for therapeutic neuroregenerative strategies through stem cell and gene therapy.
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