Neural precursor cells have been of interest historically as the building blocks of the embryonic CNS and, most recently, as substrates for restorative neurological approaches. The majority of previous in vitro studies of the regulation of neural-cell proliferation by polypeptide growth factors, and in vivo studies of neural lineage, argue for the presence of precursors with limited proliferative or lineage potential in the mammalian CNS. This is in contrast to renewable tissues, such as the blood or immune system, skin epithelium and epithelium of the small intestinal crypts, which contain specialized, self-renewing cells known as stem cells. However, recent in vitro and in vivo studies from our and other laboratories lead us to conclude that neural stem cells, with self-renewal and multilineage potential, are present in the embryonic through to adult mammalian forebrain.
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