Stem cell research within the past few years has highlighted the existence of neural stem cells in the central nervous system of adult humans. The significance of this may be unparalleled because of its implications in the capacity for the human brain tissue to regenerate. The benefits would accrue to individuals suffering from brain injuries or illnesses related to impaired brain functioning such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
Although it is not disputed that neurogenesis, or the regenerative capacity of the central nervous system, does occur, what remains to be contentious among members of the scientific community is the identification, origin and function of recently formed neuronal cells (Taupin, 2006, p. 814). These cells are known to develop from groups of glial cells or neuroglia which function as stem cells with the capability to differentiate into neuronal cells.
Further, newly formed neuronal cells are said to be involved with certain cognitive processes which includes learning and memory as well as depression and regeneration (Taupin, 2006, p. 814). Current research focus on how these cells actually contribute to the pathophysiology of the central nervous system in order to further understand the extensiveness of such regenerative capacity.
Cell therapy is one of the clinical applications in which neuronal stem cells can be utilized. There have already been efforts in the isolation and culture of such stem cells from human post-mortem tissues but the idea of using invasive surgery to remove healthy brain tissue, culture it and transplant it to damaged parts of the brain remains fraught with ethical issues and greatly limits its possible use as a medical treatment (Taupin, 2006, p. 818).
List of References
Taupin, P. (2006). “Neural Progenitor and Stem Cells in the Adult Central Nervous
System”. Annals Academy of Medicine 35, pp. 814-20. Retrieved 29 May 2008