Patient heal thyself: modeling and treating neurological disorders using patient-derived stem cells.


Disorders of the brain and spinal cord are common worldwide problems but have remained very difficult to treat. As a group they have diverse etiologies and can be due to trauma, infection, tumors, genetic mutations and environmental insults. Though distinct in etiology, neurological disorders share an overall intractability as current therapies are largely limited to treatment of symptoms. Improved outcomes are further constrained by the minimal endogenous capacity of the brain and spinal cord for repair. Spectacular recent scientific advances, however, suggest that new stem cell-based approaches may change this undesirable situation. In this review, I will broadly outline the challenges of studying and treating disorders of the brain and spinal cord. I will review ongoing attempts to use stem cell-based therapies to both model and treat neurological disorders. While this field is in its infancy, expected advances and needed breakthroughs point to a future where patient-derived stem cells will be the basis for the emerging discipline of regenerative neurology.