Stem cell research

Cell Press has launched a new journal, Cell Stem Cell. It’s the official affiliated journal of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR). To introduce the journal, access to all the content is currently free.

I didn’t see any information about when free access to all content will end. At the Information for Authors page, it’s stated that:

Cell Stem Cell content is freely available online 12 months after publication.

On this same page, under Authors’ Rights, it’s stated that:

As an author, you (or your employer or institution) may do the following:

* post a revised personal version of the final text (including illustrations and tables) of the article (to reflect changes made in the peer review and editing process) on your personal or your institutional website or server, with a link (through the relevant DOI) to the article as published, provided that such postings are not for commercial purposes …

There’s no mention of an embargo on such Green OA (provided that an “institutional website or server” is used). In contrast, to obtain Green OA via PubMed Central (PMC), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has made an agreement with Cell Press to pay a fee. See: HHMI and Elsevier Announce Public Access Agreement (March 8, 2007), and, Paying a fee for Green OA.

In the inaugural issue, Cell Stem Cell 2007(June); 1(1), there’s a “Featured Article” that, like the rest of this issue, is currently freely accessible. It’s a remarkable article, Directly Reprogrammed Fibroblasts Show Global Epigenetic Remodeling and Widespread Tissue Contribution, by Nimet Maherali and 11 co-authors, including Rudolf Jaenisch. This article is one of three mentioned in Simple switch turns cells embryonic by David Cyranoski, Nature 2007(7 Jun); 447(7145): 618-9 (the other two articles were published in Nature). Excerpts from David Cyranoski’s article:

Technique removes need for eggs or embryos.

Research reported this week by three different groups shows that normal skin cells can be reprogrammed to an embryonic state in mice1, 2, 3. The race is now on to apply the surprisingly straightforward procedure to human cells.

Last year, Yamanaka introduced a system that uses mouse fibroblasts, a common cell type that can easily be harvested from skin, instead of eggs4. Four genes, which code for four specific proteins known as transcription factors, are transferred into the cells using retroviruses. The proteins trigger the expression of other genes that lead the cells to become pluripotent, meaning that they could potentially become any of the body’s cells. Yamanaka calls them induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). “It’s easy. There’s no trick, no magic,” says Yamanaka.

Reference 4 is to the article published last year by Takahashi K. & Yamanaka S, Cell 2006(25 Aug); 126, 663-76. It’s also currently freely accessible, via: Induction of Pluripotent Stem Cells from Mouse Embryonic and Adult Fibroblast Cultures by Defined Factors.

This particular advance in research on stem cells has attracted a good deal of attention. See, for example: Art Caplan on MSNBC: Does Stem Cell Advance Provide an Ethical Out? An excerpt:

The big science news of the day — and maybe the year — is that researchers have, in mice, managed to transform skin cells into what seem to look and act like pluripotent stem cells. (There’s coverage everywhere, including: NYT, WP and Nature.) This development opens the possibility that maybe we can bypass many of the ethical questions that have surrounded research into human embryonic stem cells.

While this is exciting news, there’s one phrase we shouldn’t overlook: in mice. …

So, the inaugural issue of Cell Stem Cell has contributed (see above) to this exciting news.

Meanwhile, another journal for the publication of research on stem cells has recently been announced. (See: New journal from Elsevier, First Author, June 5, 2007). The new journal is Stem Cell Research, which will be launched in August, 2007. The Journal authors’ home section of the website provides access to an Author’s Rights section, which includes an item, What rights do I retain as an author? This, in turn, leads to an item: Can I post my article on the Internet? The answer:

You can post your version of your journal article on your personal web page or the web site of your institution, provided that you include a link to the journal’s home page or the article’s DOI and include a complete citation for the article. This means that you can update your version (e.g. the Word or Tex form) to reflect changes made during the peer review and editing process.

Again, Green OA on personal or institutional web page or web site is permitted.

Why have both Elsevier and Cell Press (the Elsevier premium imprint for life science research) both launched journals that may compete with each other for high-quality articles about research on stem cells? Probably, because it’s a hot field at present, and can be expected to become even hotter.

The implications for OA? One is that Green OA is feasible for both Elsevier and Cell Press journals. Another is that, at present, no Gold (fee-based) or Platinum (no-fee) OA journal has a primary focus on research on stem cells.

However, another aspect of research on stem cells that’s currently quite hot is studies on cancer stem cells. Maybe there’s still an opportunity to establish a Gold or Platinum OA journal that has a focus on cancer stem cells?

Some references about cancer stem cells:

Stem Cells That Kill, by Alice Park,, Apr. 17, 2006.

Researching stem cells, CBC News Online, May 3, 2006.

Colon cancer stem cells identified, by Jeffrey M. Perkel, The Scientist, November 20, 2006.

Canadian researchers ‘create’ leukemia stem cell, watch disease unfold, CBC News, April 27, 2007.

Governor Schwarzenegger Highlights California-Canada Partnership on Life-saving Stem Cell Research, Press Release, May 30, 2007.

John Dick (scientist), credited with first identifying cancer stem cells in certain types of human leukemia.



  1. heathermorrison said

    Elsevier and Cell Stem Press are both limiting “green” open access to institutional repostitories or institutional websites. That is, deposit in a subject repository such as PubMedCentral is not permitted, a rather significant limitation in many senses.

    It is good that authors are not asked to pay for green OA as with the HHMI deal.

    A gold competition in the area of stem cell research would be good to see. In the meantime, would stem cell researchers be able to publish in more general medical OA journals?

  2. tillje said

    To obtain some insight into where leading stem cell researchers are currently publishing, see (for example) the recent articles of John E. Dick, Connie J. Eaves and Irving L. Weissman that have been have been indexed by PubMed. For these 3 authors, on average, about 25% of their 20 most recent articles are OA.

  3. tillje said

    For an example of a recent article on stem cell research that’s been published in an OA journal, see: Campbell PA, Perez-Iratxeta C, Andrade-Navarro MA, Rudnicki MA, Oct4 Targets Regulatory Nodes to Modulate Stem Cell Function, PLoS ONE 2007(20 Jun); 2(6): e553.

    Added 27 June, 2007:

    Researchers Reveal Theory of Everything for Stem Cells,, June 21, 2007.


    For more than 25 years, stem cells have been defined based on what they can become: more of themselves, as well as multiple different specialized cell types. But as genetic techniques have become increasingly powerful, many scientists have sought a more molecular definition of stem cells, based on the genes they express.

    Now, a team of Canadian scientists has identified 1,155 genes under the control of a gene called Oct4, considered to be the master regulator of the stem cell state.

  4. tillje said

    There’s a non-OA journal Stem Cells, that’s published by AlphaMed Press. An excerpt from the section on author rights, at the bottom of the Reprints & Permissions page:

    The author rights include:

    * the right to post their work as the final peer-reviewed author’s manuscript (but not published layout) on their own website, their institution’s website (website only, NOT repository), and their funding body’s archive, provided a link is made to the AlphaMed Press version.

    The “Policy and Submission Information” [PDF] includes this paragraph:

    Publication fee
    Proffered manuscripts that are accepted for publication will be assessed a publication fee of $1,500, which includes all page charges and any applicable color charges.

    Thus, a substantial publication fee is charged, even though the journal is non-OA.

    Added August 31, 2007:

    Stem Cells does publish some articles that are labelled “Open Access Article“, and are freely accessible. An example is an Editorial, Stem Cell Science and the Lasker Award – Let the Science Not Be Lost in Translation by Louis Siminovitch, in Stem Cells 2007(Apr); 25(4): 816-817.

    Such articles can be found via an Advanced Search, using as search criteria: open access (exact phrase anywhere in article).

    Added January 20, 2008:

    AlphaMed Press, the publisher of the journal Stem Cells, provides an Open Access Option. Excerpt from “Information for Authors” (2007 [PDF, 116K]):

    Open access option
    AlphaMed Press offers authors the option of making their article freely available immediately after publication on the STEM CELLS website. This option provides support to authors who wish or need to sponsor open access to their published research articles. This open access option provides a fee-based mechanism for individual authors or their research funding agencies to sponsor the open availability of their articles on the web at the time of initial publication. Additionally, under this open access option, AlphaMed Press will allow the deposition of the final paper to PMC and its international equivalent UKPMC on publication. The fee per article for this service is $2,000 USD in addition to the regular publication fees charged to authors.

    The open access option will be made available to authors only after peer-review and editorial acceptance of their articles for publication in order to prevent any potential conflicts of interest

    An example of an interesting article that’s freely accessible as a result of this Open Access Option:

    Development of Human cloned Blastocysts Following Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) with Adult Fibroblasts, by Andrew J. French and 5 co-authors, Stem Cells Express, first published online January 17, 2008. (Free full text: [PDF, 709K]).

    For a commentary about this article, see: Human embryos cloned from adult cells, by David Cyranoski, Nature News, January 17, 2008. The final paragraph of the commentary:

    Researchers in the field continue to take two parallel approaches to making patient-matched stem-cell lines. Some, like Stemagen, are using cloning; others are attempting to bypass eggs and embryos completely by instead reprogramming adult cells directly into embryonic-like stem cells.

  5. tillje said

    Two papers published online today have generated excitement. They are:

    1) Induction of Pluripotent Stem Cells from Adult Human Fibroblasts by Defined Factors, by Kazutoshi Takahashi and co-authors (including Shinya Yamanaka), published in Cell. [Cell DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2007.11.019]. PDFs of the article and supplemental data are currently freely accessible via the Cell website.

    2) Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines Derived from Human Somatic Cells, by Junying Yu and co-authors (including James A. Thomson), published in Science. [Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1151526]. Only the abstract is currently freely accessible.

    For examples of the news reports, see:

    Stem cells without embryos: skin cells transformed. By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor, Reuters, November 20, 2007. A noteworthy excerpt:

    Both teams said the new cells are not ready to use in people yet because they used a type of virus called a retrovirus to carry the new genes into the skin cells. It is not clear whether this virus might cause genetic mutations that could cause cancer or other side effects.

    ‘Milestone’ stem cell advance reported. Associated Press, November 20, 2007. Excerpt:

    Dr. George Daley of the Harvard institute, who said his own lab has also achieved direct reprogramming of human cells, said it’s not clear how long it will take to get around the cancer risk problem. Nor is it clear just how direct reprogramming works, or whether that approach mimics what happens in cloning, he noted.

    See also: Looking ahead: induced pluripotent stem cells, by Greg Dahlmann,, November 20, 2007.

    Added November 21, 2007: As of this morning, the DOI for the Science article was active, but the DOI for the Cell article wasn’t. I’ve modified the comment that I posted yesterday. The links that are currently available for these articles have been added.

    Added December 1, 2007: Another article has now been published: Generation of induced pluripotent stem cells without Myc from mouse and human fibroblasts, by Masato Nakagawa and 9 co-authors (including Shinya Yamanaka), Nature Biotechnology, Advanced online publication, 30 November 2007. As of this morning, the full text is available.

    For an example of a commentary about this article, see: Stem cell breakthrough made at Kyoto U, The Yomiuri Shimbun, December 1, 2007. Excerpt:

    The research group excluded c-Myc and embedded the other three genes in skin cells of a mouse. The genes developed at a slower rate, but the research group says it confirmed that a very small quantity of iPS cells had been produced.

  6. tillje said

    Another relevant article: Improved Efficiency and Pace of Generating Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells from Human Adult and Fetal Fibroblasts, by Prashant Mali and 7 co-authors, including Linzhao Cheng, Stem Cells, May 29, 2008.

    The last sentence of the abstract:

    Using this improved approach, we also generated hES-like cells from homozygous fibroblasts containing the sickle cell anemia mutation HbS.

    For a commentary, see: Skin Morphed Into Stem Cells, Now With Sickle Cell Mutations, by Rob Waters,, May 29, 2008. Excerpts:

    The refinements are a step toward enabling scientists to take cells from people with a genetic illness and make stem cells that match their condition. The cells could then be used to test drugs for possible treatments. Ultimately, the genetic flaws in the cells might be fixed and the modified cells transplanted into the patient to try to cure the disorder.


    While the method may bring advances, “I have to urge caution,” [Jeanne Loring] said. “We have to put safeguards in place to ensure that new cell lines that are made are as safe as, or safer, than human embryonic stem cells.”

  7. tillje said

    See also this Commentary: What comes after iPS?, by Thomas P Zwaka, Nature Reports Stem Cells 2008 (3 April). The last two paragraphs of the Commentary:

    The discovery of reprogramming teaches us an important lesson — cellular states can indeed change quite markedly within a narrow window of time. Given that the number of factors that can accomplish reprogramming is limited, it is almost certain that similar phenomena occur when tumours form or adapt to new requirements (such as in metastasis). Such uncontrolled reprogramming may not only promote certain events in cancer development but may also be essential for disease progression. Thus, a detailed knowledge of the events that occur during reprogramming could help answer fundamental questions about cancer stem cells.

    Although it may be a decade or more before the current work on pluripotency affects work in the clinic, the progress stimulated by the pioneers in the field of reprogramming has moved cellular reprogramming from the alchemist’s shelf to the forefront of research. Dust will not settle on this field for many years hence.

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