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Keywords:

  • human embryonic stem cells;
  • neural differentiation;
  • cell signaling;
  • regional specification

Abstract

Availability of human embryonic stem cells (hESC) has enhanced human neural differentiation research. The derivation of neural progenitor (NP) cells from hESC facilitates the interrogation of human embryonic development through the generation of neuronal subtypes and supporting glial cells. These cells will likely lead to novel drug screening and cell therapy uses. This review will discuss the current status of derivation, maintenance and further differentiation of NP cells with special emphasis on the cellular signaling involved in these processes. The derivation process affects the yield and homogeneity of the NP cells. Then when exposed to the correct environmental signaling cues, NP cells can follow a unique and robust temporal cell differentiation process forming numerous phenotypes. J. Cell. Biochem. 105: 633–640, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.