Plasticity and neural stem cells in the enteric nervous system.


The enteric nervous system (ENS) is a highly organized part of the autonomic nervous system, which innervates the whole gastrointestinal tract by several interconnected neuronal networks. The ENS changes during development and keeps throughout its lifespan a significant capacity to adapt to microenvironmental influences, be it in inflammatory bowel diseases or changing dietary habits. The presence of neural stem cells in the pre-, postnatal, and adult gut might be one of the prerequisites to adapt to changing conditions. During the last decade, the ENS has increasingly come into the focus of clinical neural stem cell research, forming a considerable pool of neural crest derived stem cells, which could be used for cell therapy of dysganglionosis, that is, diseases based on the deficient or insufficient colonization of the gut by neural crest derived stem cells; in addition, the ENS could be an easily accessible neural stem cell source for cell replacement therapies for neurodegenerative disorders or traumatic lesions of the central nervous system.


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