While the pace of traumatic brain injury (TBI) research has accelerated, the treatment options remain limited. Clinical trials are yet to yield successful treatment options, leading to innovative strategies to overcome the severe debilitating consequences of TBI. Stem cells may act as a potential treatment option. They have two key characteristics, the ability of self-renewal and the ability to give rise to daughter cells, which in the case of neural stem cells (NSCs) includes neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. They respond to the injury environment providing trophic support and have been shown to differentiate and integrate into the host brain. In this review, we introduce the notion of an NSC and describe the two neurogenic niches in the mammalian brain. The literature supporting the activation of an NSC in rodent models of TBI, both in vivo and in vitro, is detailed. This endogenous activation of NSCs may be augmented by exogenous transplantation of NSCs. Delivery of NSCs to assist the host nervous system has become an attractive option, with either fetal or adult NSC. This has resulted in cognitive and functional improvement in rodents, and current animal studies are using human NSCs. While no NSC clinical trials are currently ongoing for TBI, this review touches upon other neurological diseases and discuss how this may move forward into TBI.
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