Thrombopoietin (TPO) is a growth factor for the megakaryocytic/platelet lineage. In this study, we investigated the expression of TPO and its receptor, c-Mpl, in the human central nervous system (CNS) and their roles after a neural insult. Our results demonstrate that both TPO and c-Mpl are expressed in the neurons of the human CNS. TPO was also detected in human cerebrospinal fluid. TPO was found to be neuroprotective in hypoxic-ischemic neonatal rat brain models. In these rat models, treatment with TPO reduced brain damage and improved sensorimotor functions. In addition, TPO promoted C17.2 cell proliferation through activation of the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway. Via the Bcl-2/BAX signaling pathway, TPO exerted an antiapoptotic effect by suppressing mitochondrial membrane potentials. Taken together, our results indicate that TPO is neuroprotective in the CNS.