Have you been questioning the meaning of the terms neural stem cells versus neuronal stem cells? If so, you’re not alone. The short answer is that neural means pertaining to a nerve or nerves (the cordlike bundles of fibers made up of neurons), while neuronal means pertaining to neurons (the conducting cells of the nervous system).
With this understanding, the term neural stem cell describes multipotent stem cells that can self-renew and differentiate into specialized cells of the brain, such as neurons, astrocytes, or oligodendrocytes.
In contrast, neuronal is a term that describes neurons, so practically speaking, it is often used in the context of describing neuronal networks (networks of neurons) or describing neuronal differentiation. For example, one might talk about stem cell-derived neuronal networks or neuronal differentiation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells).
Therefore, when it comes to the world of stem cells, the cells that are capable of differentiating into specialized cells of the brain are neural stem cells.
With this surface level understanding, let’s dive deeper.
Neural Stem Cells vs. Neuronal Stem Cells?
To further understand the correct application and usage of these two terms, let’s explore the history of neural stem cell research.
In 1992, Reynolds and Weiss were the first to isolate neural stem cells from the striatal tissue of adult mice brain tissue, including the subventricular zone, which is a neurogenic area. Since then, neural progenitor and stem cells have been isolated from various areas of the adult central nervous system, including non-neurogenic areas like the spinal cord, and from other species, including humans.
Neural Progenitor Cells
During development of the human nervous system, neural progenitor cells can either stay as proliferating, undifferentiated cells or they can differentiate. A limited number of new neurons are also generated during adulthood.
Over the past few years, neuronal stem and progenitor cells have become of profound interest to the research community due to their potential to be used in drug discovery and delivery applications, as well neural toxicology assessment.
NSC transplantation also represents an intriguing treatment approach to range of neurological diseases and central nervous system (CNS) injuries, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and spinal cord injury (SCI), among many others.
Neurogenesis is the process by which neurons are created. This process is most active during pre-natal development when neurogenesis is responsible for populating the growing brain.
Thus, the difference between neural stem and neural progenitor cells is that neural stem cells are self-renewing, while neural progenitor cells can only undergo a limited number of replication cycles.
To summarize the points described above:
- Neural means pertaining to a nerve or nerves, the cordlike bundles of fibers made up of neurons.
- Neuronal means pertaining to neurons, the conducting cells of the nervous system.
- Neural stem cells (NSCs) are the self-renewing, multipotent cells that differentiate into the main phenotypes of the nervous system, such as neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes.
- Neural progenitor cells (NPCs) are the progeny of stem cell division that normally undergoes a limited number of replication cycles in vivo.
What else would you like to understand about neural stem cells? Ask your questions in the comments below.