Editorial: 2013—A Year of Clinical Success and Great Scientific Innovation in the Stem Cell Field


  • Jan A. Nolta

Correspondence: Jan A. Nolta, University of California Davis Health System, Stem Cell Program, Sacramento, California, USA. e-mail: jan.nolta@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu

The year 2013 has been an extremely exciting one for the field of stem cell research and therapy. Our “sister journals,” STEM CELLS and STEM CELLS TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE, have done a great job of capturing the exciting advances in the field, thanks to the outstanding manuscripts submitted by our authors.

STEM CELLS manuscripts focus primarily on the functional and mechanistic aspects of stem cell biology and the potential of different types of stem cells for therapeutic applications, and reports key advances in stem cell clinical trials. Manuscripts must have definitive conclusions to be considered for potential publication in STEM CELLS. The manuscripts in STEM CELLS TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE (SCTM) primarily cover technical advances in delivering cell therapy, advances in animal models, and new findings that help advance particular stem cell therapies closer to the clinic. SCTM provides an excellent forum for translational, clinical, and technical advances for stem cell therapy development. After only 1 year in press, we were thrilled to announce that SCTM became fully indexed in PubMed. This is a wonderful testimony to the huge amount of excitement in the field and to the truly excellent manuscripts submitted to both sister journals.

During the past year, STEM CELLS has been proud to publish exciting clinical advances in treating steroid-refractory Graft versus Host disease [1], Cerebral Palsy [2], Crohn's fistula [3], and treating alveolar bone defects with an injectable tissue engineered stem cell product, avoiding the donor site morbidity associated with bone autograft [4].

We were also excited to publish an excellent review on the current clinical status of mesenchymal stem/stromal cell (MSC) therapies for inflammatory diseases [5], a review of engineering myocardial tissue [6], and concise reviews on clinical programs of stem cell therapies for liver and pancreas [7], stem cells for treating lung disease [8], MSCs for ischemic kidney disease [9], and salivary gland stem cells for treating xerostomia/hyposalivation [10].

These clinical reports and reviews of completed and ongoing stem cell clinical trials were accompanied by a dazzling assortment of basic and translational research toward better understanding and treating a plethora of diseases and injuries. Manuscripts covered many advances in understanding the fundamental mechanisms that control stem and progenitor cell fate, and advances in working toward treating all tissues, from the lower extremities to the brain. Exciting basic and translational research was reported in using stem cells to treat osteoporosis [11], spinal cord injuries [12, 13], radiation-induced fibrosis [14], glaucoma [15], globoid cell leukodystrophy [16], stroke [17], and Huntington's disease [18], to name just a few. It has truly been an exciting year, as we watch the stem cell field explode.

In order to help readers keep up with their areas of interest, STEM CELLS provides virtual issues in specific areas, which are collections of the most exciting papers over the past 2 years in a given field. These can be accessed on the STEM CELLS website. Some of the most recent collections are: “Neural Stem Cells Papers,” “Induced Pluripotency—Making Stem Cells for All Reasons,” and “MSCs for What Ails You.”

The STEM CELLS Portal provides updates on exciting news in the field and links to advances that are reported in both sister journals. There is a link on the portal to an audio section called “Innovators and Issues,” which connects listeners with leaders in the field of stem cell research and translational medicine.

The website also has a link to the young investigator awards. Dr. Jacco van Rheenen's manuscript, “Intravital Imaging of Cancer Stem Cell Plasticity in Mammary Tumors,” published in the March 2013 issue of the Journal, was selected as the Stem Cells article of the past year having the greatest impact by a young investigator. The 2013 Young Investigator award was publicly announced at the Stem Cellsbooth at the American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting and Exposition in New Orleans, Louisiana, December 7–10, 2013.

The outstanding study by Dr. Van Rheenen's laboratory demonstrated unequivocally, for the first time, that a small fraction of breast cancer stem cells are responsible for clonal expansion to not only generate the differentiated tumor but also to replicate themselves. The use of confetti colors to perform lineage tracing in this study is truly elegant, and we congratulate our 2013 Young Investigator Award winner on this important accomplishment. We highly encourage young investigators to submit their work to STEM CELLS and, if accepted, to apply for the 2014 award.

We thank the authors of the manuscripts published in STEM CELLS and SCTM throughout 2013, which have shown that it was a year of clinical success and great scientific innovation in the stem cell field. It has been a truly stellar year in basic, translational, and clinical advances.

Happy New Year, and please continue to send us your best work in 2014!


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    Dr. Jan Nolta, Editor of Stem Cells, is the Director of the Stem Cell Program at UC Davis School of Medicine and directs the new Institute for Regenerative Cures. The UC Davis stem cell program has over 150 faculty members collaborating to work toward stem cell-related cures for a spectrum of diseases and injuries. Her group focuses on “bench to the bedside” research, and she has been involved in numerous clinical trials of gene and cell therapy. She is scientific director of the new Good Manufacturing Practice clean room facility at UC Davis, where stem cells of different types are being isolated or expanded for clinical trials.