“The secret of eternal youth is arrested development.

-Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Neural Stem Cells and Regeneration

Like other nervous systems in the body, the enteric nervous system (ENS) is markedly restricted in its ability to replace dead or damaged neurons. This has left the ENS vulnerable to a variety of genetic, metabolic or environmental threats, resulting in clinical disorders such as achalasia, diabetic gastroparesis and intestinal dysmotility, neuropathic forms of pseudoobstruction, Hirschsprung’s disease and others. Curiously, and somewhat paradoxically, despite the lack of significant neurogenesis in vivo, there is growing evidence to suggest the existence of multipotent neural precursor cells (NPCs) or neural stem cells (NSC) in abundant numbers in the gut.  Several investigators, including our team, have shown that these cells are capable of robust neurogenesis in vitro.  Further, our data suggests that the proliferation of these cells correlates with the degree of dissociation from their environment. 

Our lab has developed new ways to study enteric neurogenesis in vitro and in vivo and our studies are moving us closer to identifying the nature and origin of neural stem cells in the gut