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Stem Cells: Innovative Therapeutic Options for Neurodegenerative Diseases?

Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by the progressive loss of structure and/or function of both neurons and glial cells, leading to different degrees of pathology and loss of cognition. The hypothesis of circuit reconstruction in the damaged brain via direct cell replacement has been pursued extensively so far. In this context, stem cells represent a useful option since they provide tissue restoration through the substitution of damaged neuronal cells with exogenous stem cells and create a neuro-protective environment through the release of bioactive molecules for healthy neurons, as well. These peculiar properties of stem cells are opening to potential therapeutic strategies for the treatment of severe neurodegenerative disorders, for which the absence of effective treatment options leads to an increasingly socio-economic burden. Currently, the introduction of new technologies in the field of stem cells and the implementation of alternative cell tissues sources are pointing to exciting frontiers in this area of research. Here, we provide an update of the current knowledge about source and administration routes of stem cells, and review light and shadows of cells replacement therapy for the treatment of the three main neurodegenerative disorders (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease).

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