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Stem cells special: hope and hype


The latest issue of The Biochemist looks at stem cells, their potential in medicine and the ethical questions to which they give rise.

Cultured rat neural stem cells from the central nervous system (NeuroCyte-Rat Kit from Orion BioSolutions, Inc.) were stained for nestin (red) and GFAP (green) using DAPI to counterstain nuclei (blue). Fluorescent images were acquired using a high resolution CCD camera on a confocal spinning-disk microscope (400X).

As part of the Biochemical Journal centenary, the issue carries an exclusive interview with Mike Berridge and Bob Michell and a review of signalling. We interview Sir Philip Cohen, the new president of the Society, on his career in biochemistry and the role of science.

Contents include:

Stem cell research: ethics and geography
By Stephen Minger (King’s College London, UK)
The United Kingdom provides a model regulatory and scientific environment for promoting human stem cell research and cell-based translation medicine. But a huge gulf exists between the US and the UK when it comes to human embryo and embryonic stem cell research.

Stem cells in liver repair
By Yiannis N. Kallis and Stuart J. Forbes (Imperial College London, UK)
Although the liver has a remarkable capacity to regenerate, this is sometimes insufficient and a liver transplant is required. Organ demand outstrips supply and so alternative sources of liver cells are urgently needed. Stem cells may be the answer.

Brain repair: do it yourself
By Wendy Phillips (Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, UK and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, UK) and Roger Barker (Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, UK and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, UK)

Neurogenesis is the process whereby newborn neurons are formed, and continues into adulthood in defined regions. New neurons can be formed in the adult brain in response to stimulation and injury, but this can be disrupted in neurodegenerative disease. An attractive choice for brain repair is to stimulate endogenous neurogenesis to make up cell loss in these conditions.

Stem cells for Huntington’s disease
By Anne E. Rosser (University of Wales College of Medicine, School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, UK) and Nicholas D Allen (School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, UK)
There are two potential uses of stem cells for the development of treatments for Huntington’s Disease: as a source of donor cells for neural transplantation, and as a tissue culture resource for understanding the pathogenic processes involved in the disease and for screening potential therapeutic drugs.

Embryonic stem cells: past, present, future.
By Melanie J. Welham (University of Bath, UK)
The derivation of embryonic stem cells from pre-implantation mouse embryos was first reported in 1981, although it wasn’t until some 17 years later that human embryonic stem cells were successfully isolated. Few could have predicted that nearly a quarter of a century later mouse embryonic stem cells cells, and their human counterparts, would be under such intense investigation and have sparked so much political, media and public debate.

Transcription factors
By Tony Lee and Tom Volkert (Whitehead Institute, Cambridge, MA)
A key to understanding the unique properties of embryonic stem cells rests in understanding how the underlying gene expression programs are brought about by a combination of transcription factors and chromatin modifiers acting on the genome.

Signalling: the remarkable dynasties
By Robin Irvine (University of Cambridge, UK)
Our celebration of 100 years of the Biochemical Journal continues with a survey of classic signalling papers.

Mike Berridge and Bob Michell interview
The pioneers of signalling

A Reduced History of the Biochemical Journal
By Rhonda Oliver and Pauline Starley

Biochemical Journal - the first 100 years online
By Robert Kiley (Wellcome Library), Martha Fishel (National Library of Medicine, and Carol Myers (National Library of Medicine)

Professor Sir Philip Cohen FRS FRSE
The new President of The Biochemical Society

By Matthew Davies (University of Oxford, UK)

Best of the Web
The Naked Scientists
By Elizabeth Hatton

Overcoming the tyranny of biology
By Michael G. Sargent (National Institute for Medical Research, UK)

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