Emergent Properties of Neural Repair: Elemental Biology to Therapeutic Concepts

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Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability. The past decade has seen advances in basic science research of neural repair in stroke. The brain forms new connections after stroke, which have a causal role in recovery of function. Brain progenitors, including neuronal and glial progenitors, respond to stroke and initiate a partial formation of new neurons and glial cells. The molecular systems that underlie axonal sprouting, neurogenesis, and gliogenesis after stroke have recently been identified. Importantly, tractable drug targets exist within these molecular systems that might stimulate tissue repair. These basic science advances have taken the field to its first scientific milestone; the elemental principles of neural repair in stroke have been identified. The next stages in this field involve understanding how these elemental principles of recovery interact in the dynamic cellular systems of the repairing brain. Emergent principles arise out of the interaction of the fundamental or elemental principles in a system. In neural repair, the elemental principles of brain reorganization after stroke interact to generate higher order and distinct concepts of regenerative brain niches in cellular repair, neuronal networks in synaptic plasticity, and the distinction of molecular systems of neuroregeneration. Many of these emergent principles directly guide the development of new therapies, such as the necessity for spatial and temporal control in neural repair therapy delivery and the overlap of cancer and neural repair mechanisms. This review discusses the emergent principles of neural repair in stroke as they relate to scientific and therapeutic concepts in this field. Ann Neurol 2016;79:895–906

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