Neural stem/progenitor cells (NSPCs) are multipotent precursors that can undergo self-renewal as well as differentiate into a variety of neural lineages. Because of their regenerative potential, they offer a promising therapeutic approach to treating neurodegenerative diseases. To maximise this therapeutic potential, it is crucial to gain a more detailed understanding of NSPC biology. In an effort to achieve this goal, Masahiro Toda and co-workers (p. 3210) identify macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) as a regulator of NSPC proliferation, survival and self-renewal. They show that the MIF receptor CD74 is expressed on NSPC-containing neurospheres derived from mouse E14.5 ganglionic eminence (GE). The addition of MIF to NSPCs enhances cell viability and leads to an increase in proliferation rates. Furthermore, MIF increases primary and secondary neurosphere formation, which highlights its role in mediating NSPC self-renewal. By contrast, the cytokine does not affect the differentiation potential of NSPCs. These findings are supported by the observation that MIF activates a number of intracellular signals that lead to NSPC proliferation and survival. Furthermore, the researchers demonstrate that MIF is secreted by NSPCs as well as dendritic cells, which supports a role for this cytokine in supporting NSPC survival and/or proliferation.