Abstract Decisions about what experimental therapies are advanced to clinical trials are based almost exclusively on findings in preclinical animal studies. Over the past 30 years, animal models have forecast the success of hundreds of neuroprotective pharmacological therapies for stroke, Alzheimer's disease, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Yet almost without exception, all have failed. Rapid advances in stem cell technologies have raised new hopes that these neurological diseases may one day be treatable. Still, how can neuroregenerative therapies be translated into clinical realities if available animal models are such poor surrogates of human disease? To address this question we discuss human and rodent neurogenesis, evaluate mechanisms of action for cellular therapies and describe progress in translating neuroregeneration to date. We conclude that not only are appropriate animal models critical to the development of safe and effective therapies, but that the multiple mechanisms of stem cell-mediated therapies may be particularly well suited to the mechanistically diverse nature of central nervous system diseases in mice and man.
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