A Tale of Two Sisters


  • Terry R.J. Lappin Dr.,

  • on behalf of the Editors of the sister journals

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Dr. Lappin serves on both Stem Cells and Stem Cells Translational Medicine as the Concise Review Editor. In addition to his editorial roles, Dr. Lappin is also a professor in the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen's University in Belfast, as well as an author of numerous papers relating to haematology and stem cells.

Stem Cells was established in 1981 by scientists interested in the innate ability of some cells to replicate and differentiate into distinct cell types. Donald Metcalf, Fumimaro Takaku, and the late Laszlo Lajtha were the founding editors, with Martin Murphy serving as Editor-in-Chief. Initially published by Karger, the journal was transferred to the newly formed AlphaMed Press in 1983, when it assumed the temporary title of The International Journal of Cell Cloning. It reverted to Stem Cells in 1994.

Professor Jan Nolta leads the editorial team at Stem Cells, which includes a Comitè des Sages and a highly respected international Editorial Board. The journal is now published monthly by AlphaMed Press and Wiley, and it provides a forum for the dissemination of original investigative papers and concise reviews. With a focus on basic laboratory investigations and their translation from the bench to patient care, the mission of Stem Cells is to share new and innovative mechanistic insights into stem cell function with a highly specialised international research community.

In the space of a few short years, stem cell research and regenerative medicine have become exciting and dynamic fields of endeavour, widely assumed to lead eventually to successful treatment for a range of diseases. There are two major thrusts to the research: one is to seek a deeper understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in stem cell biology; the other is to utilise stem cells to exploit novel therapeutic options. The escalating volume of current research only serves to emphasise the need for reliable, specialised, peer-reviewed journals.

In a reflection of this changing landscape, and the growing significance of applied research, on December 7, 2011, the birth of Stem Cells Translational Medicine was announced to the world, as a sister journal to Stem Cells. The Editor-in-Chief is Dr. Anthony Atala, a practising surgeon, who is the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. This new journal explores the more translational area between stem cell research and state-of-the-art treatments. It is already fully indexed in PubMed.

Editorially, the content of the two journals can be viewed as highly complementary. Whereas Stem Cells focuses mainly on functional aspects of stem cells and their potential for therapeutic applications, Stem Cells Translational Medicine is primarily concerned with developing these clinical applications. Conceptually, each individual translational study may lead only to incremental advances—but cumulatively they hold the significant potential to shape future patient care. The journals are meant to be complementary, and in practice some overlap is inevitable.

In practice, the editorial teams of both journals are aware that for many submitted manuscripts the criteria for inclusion in either journal may be less clear. For example, high-quality papers submitted to the Regenerative Medicine and Translational and Clinical Research sections of Stem Cells often require careful editorial consideration to judge whether they are more suited to this section or to Stem Cells Translational Medicine. The editorial team has therefore developed a two-stage process for selecting manuscripts for publication.

In the preliminary selection process the guiding principle is whether the manuscript deals with an important area of basic stem cell interest and comes to a suitable conclusion. Such submissions would be recommended for review in Stem Cells. If the submission is found to further develop the principles of stem cell biology toward their therapeutic use, it would probably be directed to Stem Cells Translational Medicine. If a work submitted to Stem Cells or Stem Cells Translational Medicine is preliminary and descriptive, it will likely be rejected. Given the emphasis shared by both journals on showcasing innovation, manuscripts that simply describe a permutation of an existing technique or a slight variation of something that exists in the literature would tend to be rapidly rejected for Stem Cells, without a recommendation for redirection to Stem Cells Translational Medicine. Sometimes resubmission to a journal of bioengineering or stem cell biotechnology is advised for a manuscript considered to be too technical or specialized for either journal.

In the subsequent selection process a manuscript submitted to Stem Cells that uncovers a novel mechanism set against important biology would be deemed suitable for Stem Cells. If the results do not illuminate mechanism but indicate important therapeutic potential then Stem Cells Translational Medicine would be more appropriate. The more profound the therapeutic potential, the more it can mitigate for paucity of mechanism—at least up to a point.

A manuscript submitted to Stem Cells Translational Medicine will be judged on its merit in advancing a particular area of clinical research, such as the potential to alter patient treatment outcomes in the short to medium term. Although it is difficult to provide clear guidelines to cover all types of submissions, we hope that this explanation of the selection process will provide useful insights for authors intending to submit.

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True to our commitment to publishing only submissions of the highest quality, it is salutary to note that the overall acceptance rate for manuscripts for Stem Cells in 2012 was 25%. Of the 887 papers that were not accepted for publication, 242 were deemed to be more appropriate for Stem Cells Translational Medicine. Of these, 65 were submitted as [bridge] papers, of which 35 were subsequently accepted and published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

Further analysis of these 35 papers revealed that they are predominantly in the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, Embryonic Stem Cells/Induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) Cells, and Tissue-Specific Progenitor and Stem Cells sections of Stem Cells Translational Medicine, illustrating the common ground covered by both journals. Overall, this means that 4% of the papers not chosen originally by Stem Cells in 2012 were subsequently published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

While benefiting from these adjacencies, it is already clear that Stem Cells and Stem Cells Translational Medicine are different journals with different emphases. Given the growing momentum in different areas of this broad field of activity, it seems likely that in the future they will diverge to cover different niche areas of research. This progression will be supported by future editorial plans. Meanwhile, the editorial teams of both journals remain focused on supporting the current exhilarating phase of stem cell research by continuing to enlighten, intrigue, and inspire our readers. Your continued contributions to these efforts are greatly appreciated.

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Terry R.J. Lappin, Ph.D.

Concise Review Editor