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Published January 2009 | public
Journal Article

The biological restoration of central nervous system architecture and function: Part 1 - foundations and historical landmarks in contemporary stem cell biology


Since their discovery, stem cells have fascinated scientists with their ultimate potential: the ability to cure disease, repair altered physiology, and reverse neurological deficit. Stem cell science unquestionably promises to eliminate many of the tragic limitations contemporary medicine must acknowledge, and cloning may provide young cells for an aging population. Although it is widely believed that stem cells will transform the way medicine is practiced, therapeutic interventions using stem cell technology are still in their infancy. The 3 most common stem cell sources studied today are umbilical cord blood, bone marrow, and human embryos. Although cord blood is currently used to treat dozens of disorders and bone marrow stem cells have been used clinically since the 1960s, human embryonic stem cells have yet to be successfully applied to any disease. Undeniably, stem cell therapy has the potential to be one of the most powerful therapeutic options available. In this introductory article of a 5-part series on stem cells, we narrate the evolution of modern stem cell science, delineating major landmarks that will prove responsible for taking stem cell technology from the laboratory into revolutionary clinical applications: from the first milestone of identifying the mouse hematopoietic stem cell to the latest feats of producing pluripotent stem cells without embryos at all. In Part 2, we present the evidence demonstrating the certainty of adult mammalian neurogenesis; in Parts 3 and 4, we describe neurosurgical applications of stem cell technology; and in Part 5, we discuss the philosophical and ethical issues surrounding stem cell therapy, as well as future areas of exploration.

Additional Information

© 2009 Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. Received, May 6, 2008; accepted, September 16, 2008. We thank James C. Wald, Esq., for his assistance in produing the timeline for this article.

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