Stem cell individuality, stochastic behavior and drug discovery

Why is it important to consider the individuality of stem cells? Can mathematical equations predict when mutations in stem cells cause potentially fatal disease? Will pluripotent stem cells be future models for disease, driving drug discovery and predicting side effects? These are some of the questions discussed in recent publications in BMC Biology as part of a thematic series on stem cells launched by three of BioMed Central’s flagship journals (BMC Biology, BMC Medicine and Genome Medicine).

To open, Arthur Lander, Consulting Editor for the series with BMC Biology, comments that current notions of stem cell biology may fail to take into account the implications of the plasticity and diversity of single stem cells in "The individuality of stem cells". In an Opinion article, "Stochastic dynamics and the evolution of mutations in stem cells", David Dingli and Jorge Pacheco discuss how stochastic effects in stem cells can cause clinical disease, with examples from chronic myeloid leukemia and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria. In the third review article commissioned for the series, Lee Rubin and Kelly Haston survey recent research on the development of reprogrammed adult pluripotent cells in modeling disease in "Stem cell biology and drug discovery", discussing clinical implications for cardiovascular disease and nervous system disorders.

With these and future contributions to the series, we hope to stimulate cross-disciplinary collaborative efforts to further the biological understanding of stem cells. Keep an eye on the series for further additions.

 

J Ann Le Good,

Deputy Editor, BMC Biology

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