Special CollectionStem Cells

Courtesy of Markus Schober and Elaine Fuchs


Stem cells serve as a resource for making specific cell types as needed for research and in the clinic. They represent a ground state on which molecular factors act to give the desired cell structure and function. The past several years have shown amazing advances in stem cell isolation, as well as in expanding population numbers, directing differentiation, and engineering cells. Despite this, many challenges remain to harness their full potential for safe and effective translation to the clinic. In a series of forward-looking Science review articles below, experts highlight recent advances but also note some associated challenges and opportunities.

Blanpain and Fuchs discuss how epithelial cells participate in tissue homeostasis and wound repair, not only by their ability to differentiate forward but by their remarkable plasticity to revert back to a multipotent state. Signaling pathways are crucial for stem cell activities. Clevers et al. reveal the short-range signaling activity of Wnt factors as they act between stem cells and neighboring cells in microenvironments (niches) to regulate cell self-renewal and niche architecture. Because in vivo analyses are limited, particularly in humans, generating organlike structures “in a dish” enables researchers to gain a better understanding of molecular players and interactions. Lancaster and Knoblich detail advances in organoid technologies and how these assemblies show potential for use in regenerative medicine. One might think that once cells are isolated and manipulated to a particular fate, they can then be added to the failing body for successful regeneration and repair. In some cases this is true, but for most tissues, much work remains. Fox et al. identify technical challenges that lie ahead, such as identifying ideal cell types and delivery methods and controlling graft rejection.

Collaborations between basic science, bioengineers, and clinicians, and dedicated research such as that detailed in this stem cell series, take us ever closer to a full understanding of normal and defective development and the possible clinical applications of stem cells.

– Beverly A. Purnell

From Science

3 October 2014 | Review

An integral program for tissue renewal and regeneration: Wnt signaling and stem cell control

An integral program for tissue renewal and regeneration: Wnt signaling and stem cell control.

22 August 2014 | Review

Use of differentiated pluripotent stem cells as replacement therapy for treating disease

An ever-increasing number of specific cell types can be generated from patient-derived pluripotent stem cells, but technical challenges remain in applying these cells in the clinic.

18 July 2014 | Review

Organogenesis in a dish: Modeling development and disease using organoid technologies

Generating organ-like structures from human stem cells has potential application in regenerative medicine.

13 June 2014 | Review

Plasticity of epithelial stem cells in tissue regeneration

Recent studies show that lineage-restricted epithelial stem cells can display remarkable plasticity in tissue regeneration.

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