Spinal muscular atrophy, characterized by selective loss of lower motor neurons, is an incurable genetic neurological disease leading to infant mortality. We previously showed that primary neural stem cells derived from spinal cord can ameliorate the spinal muscular atrophy phenotype in mice, but this primary source has limited translational value. Here, we illustrate that pluripotent stem cells from embryonic stem cells show the same potential therapeutic effects as those derived from spinal cord and offer great promise as an unlimited source of neural stem cells for transplantation. We found that embryonic stem cell-derived neural stem cells can differentiate into motor neurons in vitro and in vivo. In addition, following their intrathecal transplantation into spinal muscular atrophy mice, the neural stem cells, like those derived from spinal cord, survived and migrated to appropriate areas, ameliorated behavioural endpoints and lifespan, and exhibited neuroprotective capability. Neural stem cells obtained using a drug-selectable embryonic stem cell line yielded the greatest improvements. As with cells originating from primary tissue, the embryonic stem cell-derived neural stem cells integrated appropriately into the parenchyma, expressing neuron- and motor neuron–specific markers. Our results suggest translational potential for the use of pluripotent cells in neural stem cell-mediated therapies and highlight potential safety improvements and benefits of drug selection for neuroepithelial cells.