“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.