Astrocytes as stem cells: nomenclature, phenotype, and translation

Glia. 2003 Jul;43(1):62-9. doi: 10.1002/glia.10242.


Recently discovered multipotent astrocytic stem cells are discussed in light of current nomenclature for glial precursor and lineage-associated cells in the developing, postnatal, and adult mammalian brain. Defining the phenotype of any immature cell in the nervous system is a challenge, and a position is stated that includes the need for categorizing cells within a continuum of differentiation potential. The possibility for dedifferentiating glial cells into clonogenic stem-like cells offers numerous possibilities for translating knowledge and technology from this subfield of stem cell biology to regenerative medicine. Along with the need for developing a new lexicon for defining the cellular players that contribute to the generation of glia and neurons in the developing and mature central nervous system, the relationships also need to be established among potency, repopulation attempts, and tumorigenesis of cells meeting the criteria of glial stem cells. Finally, it is possible that understanding the normal differentiation, de- and transdifferentiation potential of glial stem-like cells in the mature central nervous system will provide insights into the possible use of these cells, or biogenic factors associated with their growth and differentiation, in therapeutic approaches for a variety of neurological disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / embryology*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Lineage / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neuroglia / cytology*
  • Neuroglia / physiology
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Phenotype
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology


  • Biomarkers