Open Questions: Stem Cells

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See also: Cloning -- Regenerative medicine

It's probably the single most important area, if we're going to ever understand how our brains got wired: if we don't understand how stem cells work, we'll never understand complex biology beyond single cell organisms.

J. Craig Venter


Adult stem cells


Cell reprogramming

Stem cells from cloning

Stem cells from reprogramming

Stem cells from parthenogenesis

Stem cells and cancer

Stem cell therapy

Recommended references: Web sites

Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

Recommended references: Books


Recommended references: Web sites

Site indexes

ISSCR Stem Cell Sites of Interest
Links provided by the International Society for Stem Cell Research, especially of interest to professionals, but including general resources, stem cell fundamentals, and stem cell books.
Yahoo Stem Cell Research Links
Annotated list of links.
Yahoo News Full Coverage: Stem Cell Research
Links to recent news stories from various sources. Also includes links to sites dealing with stem cell research.
Galaxy: Stem Cells
Categorized site directory. Entries usually include descriptive annotations.
Galaxy: Stem Cell Research
Categorized site directory. Entries usually include descriptive annotations.
NIH Stem Cell Information
Contains links to news stories, press releases, and other information about stem cells.

Sites with general resources

International Society for Stem Cell Research
The ISSCR "is an independent, nonprofit organization established to promote and foster the exchange and dissemination of information and ideas relating to stem cells, to encourage the general field of research involving stem cells and to promote professional and public education in all areas of stem cell research and application." Of particular interest on the site are their pages on stem cell science, including a directory of resources, information for scientists, frequently-asked questions and answers, and external links.
New Scientist Special Report: Cloning and Stem Cells
Good collection of news articles on cloning and stem cells.
Stem Cell Information
A Web site maintained by the U. S. National Institutes of Health with a variety of information on stem cell research. Resources include stem cell basics (a good tutorial), frequently asked questions, a 2001 report on stem cells, information on stem cells and disease, a glossary, and many links to external resources.
Genes & Stem Cells
Good collection of resources on the topic -- external links, magazine articles, and books.
Nature: Focus on Stem Cells
Collection of articles, papers, and other materials from Nature related to stem cells.
Institute for Stem Cell Research
A research institute at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland). Site contains a good overview of the topic: About Stem Cells.
Stem Cells
Professional research journal of "cell differentiation and proliferation".
Stem Cells and Cloning
A brief, elementary overview from the British Royal Society. There's also an even briefer page on the subject here, with links to other reports, mostly on the related political issues.

Surveys, overviews, tutorials

Stem Cells: A Primer
Good overview information on stem cells, from the National Institutes of Health.
Stem Cells: Scientific Progress and Future Research Directions
An extensive report, from the National Institutes of Health. Except for the main page, the information is in PDF format.
FAQ: What's Up With Stem Cells?
June 2005 article from Wired News, presenting lots of basic information on stem cells, in question-answer form.
Stem Cells (
Overview in several parts by Richard Conan-Davies.
Man Receives His Own Stem Cells as a Treatment for Heart Failure
Brief July 2009 Scientific American story about use of a patient's adult heart stem cells as a treatment for congestive heart failure.
Potent Alternative: Reverse-engineered human stem cells may leapfrog the embryonic kind
Brief February 2008 Scientific American article about induced pluripotent stem cells.
Can Adult Stem Cells Do It All?
June 2007 Scientific American In Focus article, subtitled "Scientists may have turned mouse skin cells into embryolike stem cells, but prior claims for the power of adult cells have yet to stand the test of time."
Sight for Sore Eyes
March 2007 Scientific American News Scan article about stem cell therapies for repairing photoreceptor cells in the retina.
A Stroke for Stem Cells
January 2007 Scientific American In Focus article, subtitled "The brain becomes a target in stem cell clinical trials."
The World's First Neural Stem Cell Transplant
December 2006 Scientific American In Focus article, subtitled "In the coming decades this work could lead to treatments for neurodegenerative disorders that affect millions."
Blastomere Blowup
October 2006 Scientific American In Focus article, subtitled "A novel way to harvest stem cells intrigues and inflames."
Making Stem Cells on Demand
June 2005 Scientific American sidebar, subtitled "Changing muscle into bone and regrowing organs could be the fruits of work on 'dedifferentiation'."
Mother of All Cells
June 2005 Scientific American sidebar, subtitled "Scientists expect enormous benefits for humankind from the surge of research on embryonic stem cells. But it could take a generation or two before the full impact is felt."
Repair Workers Within
June 2005 Scientific American sidebar, subtitled "Adult stem cells may escape the ethical controversies of their embryonic counterparts, but as Christine Soares notes, their practical clinical value is far more murky."
A Boost for Broken Hearts?
June 2005 article from Business Week, discussing several types of stem cells and indications that some may be able to repair cardiac damage.
Costly Cloning Isn't a Cure-All
December 2004 article from Wired about the hurdles that must be jumped to obtain stem cells for therapeutic use by cloning.
Stem Cell Research
Transcript of an August 2001 radio broadcase featuring Australian stem cell expert Perry Bartlett, discussing the discovery of stem cells in the central nervous system which offer the possibility of treating brain damage and can even be turned into muscle cells.
The Child Within
June 2002 news article from Scientific American, subtitled "Stem cells from adults may not be so useful after all".
Stem Cell Showstopper?
December, 2001 news article from Scientific American, subtitled "Without Cloning, They Aren't Likely To Work".
Cloning Around with Stem Cells
June 2001 article containing basic information on stem cell research, comments from several researchers, and discussion of related political controversy.
No Stemming the Tide
August 16, 2001 news/overview article from Nature on several recent advances in isolating and culturing different types of stem cells.
Scientists Find 'Wild Card' Stem Cells in Bone Marrow
May 4, 2001 news article from Scientific American, about stem cells in bone marrow that can develop into a number of tissue types.
Human stem cells improve rat memory
May 2001 news article about improvements to the memory of aged rats after transplantation of human neural stem cells.
Fat useful for tissue engineering
April 2001 news article about using stem cells from fat tissue to grow bone, muscle, and cartilage.
Biological Alchemy
Brief February 2001 article from Scientific American on new discoveries and open questions in stem cell research.
Hope for Restoring Sight
September 2000 Scientific American news article about attempts to transplant stem cells in order to help regenerate damaged retinas.
Mother Nature's Menders
June 2000 survey article from Scientific American Presents on stem cells and potential medical benefits.
Bone marrow can produce liver cells
June 2000 news article about growing human liver cells from stem cells in bone marrow.
Human nerve cells grown from scratch
April 2000 news article about growing human nerve cells from embryonic stem cells.
Single injection cures diabetes
March 2000 news article about testing in mice of a stem cell therapy to regenerate Islets of Langerhans cells.
Stem cells help spinal cord damage
November 1999 news article the ability of mouse embryonic stem cells to repair damaged rat spinal cords.
Stem Cells Come of Age
Brief July 1999 overview article from Scientific American.
Dolly's Legacy
June 1999 article from Scientific American Explore. "Nuclear transfer--used to clone Dolly and now owned by Geron--may help scientists develop more potent stem-cell therapies."
Scientists succeed in culturing human omnipotent cells
November 1998 news article about laboratory culturing of omniponent human stem cells.
Culturing New Life
Brief June 1998 article from Scientific American on the culturing of stem cells for applications in regenerative medicine.

Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

Stem cells: The growing pains of pluripotency
Erika Check Hayden
Nature, May 18, 2011
The field of induced pluripotent stem cells has grown up fast. Now it is entering the difficult stage.
Imperfect mimics
Tina Saey
Science News, October 9, 2010
Reprogramming may not produce exact embryonic stem cell replicas.
Success with iPSCs
Elie Dolgin
The Scientist, July, 2009, p. 59
The nascent science still has many stumbling blocks to step over before companies can reap the rewards of reprogramming.
Gut Churning
Alla Katsnelson
The Scientist, July 2009, p. 51
The discovery of an intestinal stem cell marker fuels an ongoing debate over the cells' location and properties.
Turning Back the Cellular Clock: A Farewell to Embryonic Stem Cells?
Tim Hornyak
Scientific American, December 2008
Shinya Yamanaka discovered how to revert adult cells to an embryonic state. These induced pluripotent stem cells might soon supplant their embryonic cousins in therapeutic promise.
Potent Promise: Essential Stemness
Tina Hesman Saey
Science News, September 13, 2008
Potent Promise: Back to the Womb
Patrick Barry
Science News, September 13, 2008
Stem Cells from Virgin Eggs
Patrick Barry
Science News, October 20, 2007
Making a Play at Regrowing Hearts
Kenneth Chien
The Scientist, August 2006
Results from the first round of controlled human stem cell trials for heart disease are in. What have we learned?
Stem Cells: The Real Culprits in Cancer?
Michael F. Clarke; Michael W. Becker
Scientific American, July 2006
A dark side of stem cells--their potential to turn malignant--is at the root of a handful of cancers and may be the cause of many more. Eliminating the disease could depend on tracking down and destroying these elusive killer cells.
The Future of Stem Cells
Clive Cookson; John Rennie; Christine Soares; Richard Gardner; Tim Watson; Patti Waldmeir; Gary Stix
Scientific American, July 2005
The Stem Cell Challenge
Robert Lanza; Nadia Rosenthal
Scientific American, June 2004, pp
Body Builders
Alexandra Goho
Science News, March 6, 2004
Using stem cells to cultivate organs.
Adult Stem Cells
Stephen S. Hall
Technology Review, November 2001, pp. 42-49
Adult stem cells are found in many types of body tissue. In comparison to embryonic stem cells, each adult stem cell is capable of developing into only a very limited number of tissue types. But that may be enough for many therapeutic applications.
Mending a Broken Heart
Damaris Christensen
Science News, January 13, 2001, pp. 30-31
Stem cells from skeletal muscle may help treat heart tissue damaged by disease or heart attacks.
Human Embryonic Stem-Cell Research: Science and Ethics
Shirley J. Wright
American Scientist, July-August 1999, pp. 352-361
Embryonic stem cells are cells from embryos that are capable of developing into almost any type of body cell. Research on such cells may make it possible for humans to regrow damaged or diseased tissue.
New Nerve Cells for the Adult Brain
Gerd Kempermann; Fred H. Gage
Scientific American, May 1999, pp. 48-53
It has been discovered that, contrary to previous belief, new neurons can develop in the adult human brain to a limited extent, at least in the hippocampus. This means that brains do contain stem cells which can develop into neurons, and it may be possible to stimulate this action in order to counteract damage to the brain caused by injury or degenerative disease.
Embryonic Stem Cells for Medicine
Roger A. Pedersen
Scientific American, April 1999, pp. 68-73
Human embryonic stem cells were first grown in a culture only in 1998. Much research remains to be done before it will actually be practical to grows specific types of body tissue from such cells.
The Troubled Hunt for the Ultimate Cell
Antonio Regalado
Technology Review, July/August 1998, pp. 34-41
Human embryonic stem cells have the capability of developing into any type of cell in the body. Discovering how to utilize such cells could revolutionize the fields of regenerative medicine and organ transplantation.
Ontogeny Recapitulated
Gary Taubes
Discover, May 1998, pp. 66-72
The ability of embryo cells to develop into the parts of an adult animal is controlled by the sequence in which genes are turned on. Learning how this works should make it possible to grow tissues and complete organs artificially.
The Stem Cell
David W. Golde
Scientific American, December 1991, pp. 86-93
Stem cells have no specific function of their own, but are capable of differentiating into any type of body cell. Every type of cell in human blood can develop from just one type of cell -- the hematopoietic stem cell.

Recommended references: Books


Copyright © 2002 by Charles Daney, All Rights Reserved