STEM CELL SUPPLEMENT (pp. 88-129)
For this month's 'Insight' reviews supplement Nature has asked leading researchers to cut through the hype and explain the fundamentals of stem cell biology as they see it today.
Stem cells bridge the gulf between the fertilized egg that is our origin and the architecture that we become. They supply the cells that construct our adult bodies and, as we age, replenish worn-out, damaged and diseased tissues. They renew themselves, resisting the powerful pull towards differentiation that overcomes more prosaic cells. And, depending on the source, they have the potential to form one, many or all cell types of an organism.
Stem cell research has a history of more than 20 years, and has made some outstanding contributions to our understanding of blood-cell production and mouse embryology. But the field has been transformed in the past few years by successes achieved in culturing human embryonic stem cells — the building blocks for every tissue we comprise — and in manipulating their differentiation in vitro. More recently, excitement has been fuelled by controversial evidence that adult stem cells have a much higher degree of developmental potential than was previously imagined.
Scientists now face the formidable task of justifying all the attention by bringing stem cell therapies to the clinic. But this will demand a better understanding of stem cells at the molecular level and of how they behave in their biological context. The factors that maintain stem cells in a multipotent, proliferative state, or drive them to create differentiated daughter cells in vitro or in vivo, must be identified.
Jo Webber (Nature Press Office)
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The future for stem cell research - R Lovell-Badge
The end of the beginning for pluripotent stem cells - P J Donovan & J Gearhart
Stem cells find their niche - A Spradling, D Drummond-Barbosa & T Kai
Stem cells, cancer, and cancer stem cells - T Reya, S J Morrison, M F Clarke & I L Weissman
The development of neural stem cells - S Temple
Stem cells in tissue engineering - P Bianco & P G Robey
Reprogramming of genome function through epigenetic inheritance - M A Surani
Ethical and social considerations of stem cell research - A McLaren
(C)Nature press release.
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