The Gelfand transform gives an equivalence of categories from the category of unital, commutative $C^\*$-algebras with unital $\*$-homomorphisms to the category of compact Hausdorff spaces with continuous maps. Hence the study of $C^*$-algebras is sometimes referred to as non-commutative topology.
All diffuse commutative von Neumann algebras acting on separable Hilbert space are isomorphic to $L^\infty[0,1]$. Hence the study of von Neumann algebras is sometimes referred to as non-commutative measure theory.
Connes proposed that the definition of a non-commutative manifold is a spectral triple $(A,H,D)$. From a $C^\*$-algebra, we can recover the "differentiable elements" as those elements of the $C^\*$-algebra $A$ that have bounded commutator with the Dirac operator $D$.
What happens if we start with a von Neumann algebra? Does the same definition give a "differentiable" structure? Is there a way of recovering a $C^*$-algebra from a von Neumann algebra that contains the "differentiable" structure on our non commutative measure space? This would be akin to our von Neumann algebra being $L^\infty(M)$ for $M$ a compact, orientable manifold (so we have a volume form). Or are von Neumann algebras just "too big" for this?
One of the reasons I am asking this question is Connes' spectral characterization of manifolds (arXiv:0810.2088v1) which shows we get a "Gelfand theory" for Riemannian manifolds if the spectral triples satisfy certain axioms. Connes starts with the von Neumann algebra $L^\infty(M)$ instead of the $C^*$-algebra $C(M)$.