. Endothelial cells stimulate self-renewal and expand neurogenesis of neural stem cells. Science. 2004 May 28;304(5675):1338-40. Epub 2004 Apr 1 PubMed.


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  1. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In this paper, Shen et al. ask the "vascular niche" question once again: Do newly born neurons attract blood vessels for their own supply of oxygen and nutrients, or do neurons only come into existence where preformed blood vessels allow them to be? Their results provide evidence that endothelial cells interact with neural progenitors by soluble factors to increase neuronal capacities for tissue regeneration.

    Unfortunately, these factors remain unidentified, but there are several promising candidates, such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), erythropoietin (EPO), and granulocyte colony stimulating factor (GCSF). Transplantation of preprocessed neural stem cells into human patients remains labor-intensive and at the experimental stage. At the same time, it may be interesting to have cellular vehicles that provide factors influencing the brain microenvironment to promote cell and tissue regeneration in the clinical setting. Endothelial cells may act as these vehicles, as they are easier to obtain, maintain in vitro, and retransplant to the same patient. On the other hand, the yet-to-be-identified factors might be applied directly to the brain (or blood) of the patients.

    It is too early to decide whether intrinsic stimulation of neural stem cells, or transplantation of extrinsic, neuron-forming and -promoting cells (of any origin) are the most applicable way for further clinical research. Even so, it is always good to have several, equal alternatives.

    View all comments by Martin Maurer

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