Neural stem cells: Plasticity and their transdifferentiation potential

Angelo Vescovi, Angela Gritti, Giulio Cossu, Rossella Galli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The presence of resident stem cells in adult tissues is of fundamental importance for the maintenance of their structural and functional integrity. In fact, throughout life, somatic stem cells attend to the critical function of substituting terminally differentiated cells lost to physiological turnover, injury or disease. Thence, one of the basic dogmata in tissue biology holds that the differentiation potential of an adult stem cell is restricted to the generation of the mature cell lineages found in the tissue to which the stem cell belongs. A plethora of recent evidences from many groups, including ours, is now providing evidence that adult stem cells may possess a broader differentiation repertoire than expected and that their fate potential may not be as tissue specific as once thought. The initial example of an unforeseen, trans-germ layer plasticity - that seems now to emerge as a prototypic functional trait of various somatic stem cells of different origin - has come from the reported awakening of a latent hemopoietic developmental capacity in stem cells isolated from the adult mammalian brain following their transplantation into sub-lethally irradiated mice. More recently, it has been shown that adult neural stem cells can differentiate into a wide array of bodily cells of different origin when injected into the blastocyst and into myogenic cells when transplanted into the adult regenerating skeletal muscle. Moreover, bone marrow stem cells can now give rise to skeletal muscle, hepatic and brain cells, whereas muscle precursors can generate blood cells. In this article, we review some of the basic notions regarding the functional properties of the adult neural stem cells and discuss findings in the expanding area of trans-germ layer conversion, with emphasis on the neural stem cell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-76
Number of pages13
JournalCells Tissues Organs
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002


  • Adult CNS
  • Neural precursors
  • Neural stem cells
  • Neurogenesis
  • Niche

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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