Neural stem cell-based treatment for neurodegenerative diseases

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Human neurodegenrative diseases such as Parkinson's disease (PD), Huntington's disease (HD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) are caused by a loss of neurons and glia in the brain or spinal cord. Neurons and glial cells have successfully been generated from stem cells such as embryonic stem cells (ESCs), mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and neural stem cells (NSCs), and stem cell-based cell therapies for neurodegenerative diseases have been developed. A recent advance in generatioin of a new class of pluripotent stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), derived from patients' own skin fibroblasts, opens doors for a totally new field of personalized medicine. Transplantation of NSCs, neurons or glia generated from stem cells in animal models of neurodegenrative diseases, including PD, HD, ALS and AD, demonstrates clinical improvement and also life extension of these animals. Additional therapeutic benefits in these animals can be provided by stem cell-mediated gene transfer of therapeutic genes such as neurotrophic factors and enzymes. Although further research is still needed, cell and gene therapy based on stem cells, particularly using neurons and glia derived from iPSCs, ESCs or NSCs, will become a routine treatment for patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases and also stroke and spinal cord injury.

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