Neurologic impairments are usually irreversible as a result of limited regeneration in the central nervous system. Therefore, based on the regenerative capacity of stem cells, transplantation therapies of various stem cell centers have been testing in basic research and preclinical trials, and some have shown great prospects. This manuscript overviews the cellular and molecular characteristics of embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, neural stem cells, retinal stem/progenitor cells, mesenchymal stem/stromal cells, and their derivatives in vivo and in vitro as sources for regenerative therapy. These cells have all been considered as candidates to treat several major neurological disorders and diseases, owing to their self-renewal capacity, multi-directional differentiation, neurotrophic properties, and immune modulation effects. We also review representative basic research and recent clinical trials using stem cells for neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and age-related macular degeneration, as well as traumatic brain injury and glioblastoma. In spite of a few unsuccessful cases, risks of tumorigenicity, and ethical concerns, most results of animal experiments and clinical trials demonstrate efficacious therapeutic effects of stem cells in the treatment of nervous system disease. In summary, these emerging findings in regenerative medicine are likely to contribute to breakthroughs in the treatment of neurological disorders. Thus, stem cells are a promising candidate for the treatment of nervous system diseases.
Keywords: nerve regeneration; stem cells; transplantation; stem cell therapy; nervous system; neurodegenerative disease; neurological disorders; animal experiment; clinical trial; regenerative medicine; neural regeneration