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Harnessing neurogenesis for the possible treatment of Parkinson's disease

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ABSTRACT

The discovery of neurogenesis in the adult brain has created new possibilities for therapeutics in neurodegenerative diseases. Neural precursor cells, which have been found in various parts of the brain, e.g., the subventricular zone (SVZ) and substantia nigra (SN), have promising potential to replace the extensive loss of neurons occurring in neurodegenerative disorders. In Parkinson's disease (PD) the degeneration of nigral dopaminergic neurons and consequently the nigrostriatal pathway, which has been found to innervate proximally to the SVZ, causes motor and cognitive impairments. There is strong evidence that neurogenesis is impaired in PD, which has been related to the nonmotor symptoms of the disease. Recent evidence supports that this impairment in neurogenesis is partially caused by the lack of dopamine in one of the adult neurogenic niches, the SVZ. Thus, restoring the dopaminergic pathway in PD patients may have implications not only for motor function improvement, but for other cognitive and autonomic symptoms. Currently, there are no effective treatments that can stop or reverse the neurodegeneration process in the brain. Here we review the neurogenic process and observed alterations found in PD animal models and postmortem brains of PD patients. Finally, we review several attempts to stimulate the neurogenic process for nigral and/or striatal dopaminergic restoration by transgenic expression, exercise, or cell therapy. J. Comp. Neurol. 522:2817–2830, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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