Acidic fibroblast growth factors (aFGF) and basic (bFGF) are present in the adult central nervous system (CNS) and that these two FGF family members can support the fiber outgrowth and survival of a variety of peripheral and central neurons in vitro. They are expressed in non-overlapping cellular populations in the CNS, with bFGF being present in most, astrocytes and a specific hippocampal neuronal population, and aFGF being present in a select set of neurons, including some that are at risk for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. During development in rat, both aFGF and bFGF appear to be expressed at high levels in the CNS only after the period of programmed cell death (PCD) has passed. It is possible that the onset of aFGF expression correlates with the termination of PCD. However, in motor neurons, PCD appears to have ceased well before reasonably high levels of aFGF are detected in the cells.
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