Embryonic or induced pluripotent stem cells, available in mouse and human, have emerged as powerful tools to address complex questions in neurobiology. This review focuses on major advances relating to brain development and developmental disorders. Stem cells can differentiate into many different neuronal subtypes using in vitro models mimicking relevant in vivo developmental processes, and the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms. Disease-specific human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are now available and allow for the study in vitro of the pathophysiology of degenerative and neurodevelopmental hereditary and sporadic disorders, including in the near future those of the human cortex. Finally, some recent studies have shown that stem cell-derived neural progenitors and neurons could help to rebuild damaged brain circuitry, opening the possibility of cell therapy.
© The Authors. Journal compilation © Mac Keith Press 2010.