Gene regulation in adult neural stem cells. Current challenges and possible applications
Adult neural stem and progenitor cells (NSPCs) offer a unique opportunity for neural regeneration and niche modification in physiopathological conditions, harnessing the capability to modify from neuronal circuits to glial scar. Findings exposing the vast plasticity and potential of NSPCs have accumulated over the past years and we currently know that adult NSPCs can naturally give rise not only to neurons but also to astrocytes and reactive astrocytes, and eventually to oligodendrocytes through genetic manipulation. We can consider NSPCs as endogenous flexible tools to fight against neurodegenerative and neurological disorders and aging. In addition, NSPCs can be considered as active agents contributing to chronic brain alterations and as relevant cell populations to be preserved, so that their main function, neurogenesis, is not lost in damage or disease. Altogether we believe that learning to manipulate NSPC is essential to prevent, ameliorate or restore some of the cognitive deficits associated with brain disease and injury, and therefore should be considered as target for future therapeutic strategies. The first step to accomplish this goal is to target them specifically, by unveiling and understanding their unique markers and signaling pathways.