[Frontiers in Bioscience 17, 65-89, January 1, 2012]

Differentiating human stem cells into neurons and glial cells for neural repair

Vimal Selvaraj1, Peng Jiang2, Olga Chechneva2, U-Ging Lo2 , Wenbin Deng2,3

1Department of Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, 2Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy, University of California at Davis, Sacramento, CA 95817, 3Institute of Pediatric Regenerative Medicine, Shriners Hospitals for Children, Sacramento, CA 95817


1. Abstract
2. Introduction
3. Types of stem cells
3.1. Adult stem cells
3.2. Embryonic stem cells
3.3. Induced pluripotent stem cells
4. Differentiation of stem cells into neural lineages
4.1. Neural progenitors derived from stem cells
4.2. Generation of dopaminergic neurons
4.3. Generation of motor neurons and oligodendrocytes
4.4. Generation of astrocytes
4.5. Generation of microglia
5. Cell based therapies for nervous system disorders
5.1. Cell therapy for spinal cord injury
5.2. Cell therapy for stroke
5.3. Cell therapy for Parkinson's disease
5.4. Cell therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
5.5. Cell therapy for multiple sclerosis
6. Conclusions and future perspectives
7. Acknowledgement
8. References


Research on the biology of adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells, as well as cell-based strategies for treating nervous system disorders has begun to create the hope that these cells may be used for therapy in humans after injury or disease. In animal models of neurological diseases, transplantation of stem cells or their derivatives can improve function not only due to direct replacement of lost neurons or glia, but also by providing trophic support. Despite intense research efforts to translate these studies from the bench to bedside, critical problems remain at several steps in this process. Recent technological advancements in both the derivation of stem cells and their directed differentiation to lineage-committed progenitors have brought us closer to therapeutic applications. Several preclinical studies have already explored the behavior of transplanted cells with respect to proliferation, migration, differentiation and survival, especially in complex pathological disease environments. In this review, we examine the current status, progress, pitfalls, and potential of these stem cell technologies, focusing on directed differentiation of human stem cells into various neural lineages, including dopaminergic neurons, motor neurons, oligodendroglia, microglia, and astroglia, and on advancements in cell-based regenerative strategies for neural repair and criteria for successful therapeutic applications.