The Future Is Promising For Understanding The Causes Of Neurodegenerative Disorders In Humans And Identifying Treatments

Unfortunately, no effective treatments are available to prevent or cure any of these neurological disorders that affect humans. Molecular genetics studies are likely to identify additional gene mutations or deletions that are associated with progressive neurodegenerative disorders (Table II). Animal models of experimental neuropathology will remain critical for studying how nerve cells die in the brain and spinal cord. Neurons within the CNS can be damaged by neurotoxin exposure, by cutting nerves and white matter pathways, by reducing blood flow to the brain producing oxygen deprivation, by forcing brain cells to express mutant genes, and by deleting genes. These animal models of neuronal degeneration are relevant to several neurological disorders that affect humans, including Alzheimer's disease, ALS, and cerebral ischemia (Table VIII). A better understanding of the pathogenesis of neuronal degeneration in human diseases and in animal models that mirror this degeneration is critical for the future development of effective therapies for patients with Alzheimer's disease, ALS, and other conditions. A more complete understanding of the characteristics and mechanisms of neuronal death within the CNS, provided by animal models of injury and transgenic gene expression-deletion, is important for the subsequent development ofeffective pharmacological and biological treatments to prevent or limit neurodegeneration in human neuropathological conditions.

It is still generally believed that, once neurons die in the mature CNS of mammals, these neurons cannot be replaced by nearby neurons (unlike the liver for example) because the remaining neurons are postmi-totic (i.e., after neurons have achieved their mature state, they cannot enter back into the cell cycle and undergo cell division). However, nervous tissue grafting or stem cell implantation as a means for neuronal replacement is an experimental approach that offers some hope, though much work needs to be done to evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of this approach. Importantly, it remains to be shown whether the immature or adult CNS provides a permissive environment for the appropriate integration of exogenous or grafted cells into a functional neural system.

See Also the Following Articles

ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE, NEUROPSYCHOLOGY OF • BASAL GANGLIA • GLIAL CELL TYPES • MOTOR CONTROL • MOTOR NEURON DISEASE • MOTOR SKILL • MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS • NEURAL TRANSPLANTATION • NEURON • NEUROTRANSMITTERS • PARKINSON'S DISEASE • STROKE

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