In the postnatal mammalian brain, stem cells in the ventricular-subventricular zone (V-SVZ) continuously generate neuronal and glial cells throughout life. Genetic labeling of cells of specific lineages have demonstrated that the V-SVZ is an important source of the neuroblasts and/or oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) that migrate toward injured brain areas in response to several types of insult, including ischemia and demyelinating diseases. However, this spontaneous regeneration is insufficient for complete structural and functional restoration of the injured brain, so interventions to enhance these processes are sought for clinical applications. Erythropoietin (EPO), a clinically applied erythropoietic factor, is reported to have cytoprotective effects in various kinds of insult in the central nervous system. Moreover, recent studies suggest that EPO promotes the V-SVZ-derived neurogenesis and oligodendrogenesis. EPO increases the proliferation of progenitors in the V-SVZ and/or the migration and differentiation of their progenies in and around injured areas, depending on the dosage, timing, and duration of treatment, as well as the type of animal model used. On the other hand, EPO has undesirable side effects, including thrombotic complications. We recently demonstrated that a 2-week treatment with the EPO derivative asialo-EPO promotes the differentiation of V-SVZ-derived OPCs into myelin-forming mature oligodendrocytes in the injured white matter of neonatal mice without causing erythropoiesis. Here we present an overview of the multifaceted effects of EPO and its derivatives in the V-SVZ and discuss the possible applications of these molecules in regenerative medicine.
Keywords: differentiation; erythropoietin; neural stem cells; neurogenesis; oligodendrogenesis; regeneration; ventricular-subventricular zone.