Recent breakthroughs in the understanding of the genetic program that controls specification of ventral cell fate in the spinal cord and hindbrain have produced useful tools for the study of similar genetic networks in the more complex rostral regions of the central nervous system. Several research groups have elucidated key factors in the potential signaling processes, as well as transcription factors necessary for differentiation of various basal midbrain nuclei. Importantly, there has been substantial progress in understanding the genetic cascade involved in specifying dopaminergic neurons. This knowledge will be crucial in the understanding and possible treatment of Parkinson's disease.
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