Nobel prize winners a beacon for stem cell research

Congratulations from all at BioMed Central to Sir John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka, who share the 2012 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for “the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent.” Once again, stem cells are a hot topic of conversation!

In 1962 John Gurdon demonstrated that adult cells retained all the necessary genetic information to recreate an organism by replacing the nucleus of a frog’s egg cell with the nucleus of a mature cell from a tadpole’s intestine, thus showing that – although specialized – adult cells were not necessarily irreversibly committed to one fate. Over forty years later Shinya Yamanaka showed that mature adult stem cells could be reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells using just four factors, changing the stem cell research landscape almost overnight, and seemingly bringing the promise of clinical applications tantalizingly close. Six years on from Yamanaka’s groundbreaking 2006 publication, where are we now?

The answer, perhaps, is not as far as many may have hoped but also significantly further than many could imagine! Research into stem cell therapeutics is a vibrant and growing field and new clinical trials are announced regularly. BioMed Central’s Stem Cell gateway is your destination for the latest stem cell research published across all of our journals, and where you can keep up to date with news and developments such as the publication of the first articles in Stem Cell Research & Therapy’s thematic series on clinical applications of stem cells, launch of Cell Regeneration and the opening of the submission system of a new journal Regenerative Medicine Research. Last year BMC Biology, BMC Medicine and Genome Medicine came together to publish the thematic series Focus on stem cells to which articles continue to be added, such as the recent research article from Tae Gyun Kwon and colleagues on stem cell injection for urethral sphincter regeneration.

While the clinical potential of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) as generated by Yamanaka may not yet be fully clear, they are proving invaluable in disease modelling and drug screening. In Molecular Brain Imaizumi et al. used iPSC-derived neurons to study Parkinson’s disease pathology and Juopperi et al. have created an in vitro model of Huntington’s disease using astrocytes derived from patient-specific iPSCs. Similarly in Stem Cell Research & Therapy Joseph Hacia and colleagues have generated iPSCs from patients with childhood cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy while Lisa Fortier’s group have studied the effects of genetic background on iPSC generation and stability.

It would be foolish to try and guess where we will stand in another forty years (just ask Sir Gurdon’s biology teacher), but you can be sure that BioMed Central will publish many more articles on stem cells and their therapeutic applications, and that this research will be free to access to anyone, anywhere. So whatever’s next, you’ll be able to read about it here.

View the latest posts on the On Medicine homepage