Neural crest cells and the mesentery
The enteric nervous systems (ENS) in humans contain more neurons than the aggregate of all other peripheral ganglia and are responsible for orchestrating and maintaining all aspects of gastrointestinal (GI) homeostasis. The development of the ENS is a complex process derived from neural crest cells (NCCs) that commences predominantly at the vagal level of the neural tube and ends in the distal hindgut. The traditional model of enteric neural crest cells (ENCCs) migrating in a unidirectional (rostral-to-caudal) fashion within the gut mesenchyme to colonize the entire length of the gut has recently come into question with an alternative trans-mesenteric migratory model. Errors in migrations of ENCCs lead to the development of several congenital and acquired disorders of the digestive tract. Novel stem cell tissue-engineering approaches provide an exciting avenue in future treatments of enteric neuropathies.