Stem Cell Biology: Development and Plasticity

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Stem cells have generated considerable interest recently in the scientific, clinical, and public arenas. It is essential that we gain a broader understanding of the factors that regulate the biology of stem cells: their ability for self-renewal, differentiation, and plasticity, as well as the differences between embryonic and adult stem cells. And to learn whether stem cells can be manipulated to replace cells in diseased tissues depends on better understanding their normal developmental properties. This volume offers contributions from numerous interdisciplinary areas bridging biotechnology and biomedical sciences. The ability to isolate and maintain pluripotent stem cells in culture offers exciting possibilities for replacing damaged or diseased organs and tissues. Moreover, stem cells will provide opportunities for major advances in our understanding of fundamental developmental processes. The study of pluripotent stem cells derived from early embryos or fetal tissues has shown that they are capable of replicating indefinitely in vitro and possess the ability to differentiate into many cell types. Biotechnological advances under which growth conditions and factors can be identified and characterized are needed to guide such cells to form organ-specific tissues. Biomedical researchers are also investigating approaches to isolate and manipulate adult-derived multipotential stem cells that appear to possess considerably broader differentiation capacity than originally imagined. Novel therapeutic strategies are being developed to take advantage of the ability of stem cells to proliferate in culture and to survive after transplantation into various tissues, where they may integrate and stably express foreign genes, or repopulate damaged or diseased organs such as the heart, brain, or pancreas. These presentations foster a broader understanding of the factors that regulate the biology and plasticity of stem cells through the picture they provide of the state of the science of stem cell biology and by framing the many questions that remain to be answered. NOTE: Annals volumes are available for sale as individual books or as a journal. For information on institutional journal subscriptions, please visit ACADEMY MEMBERS: Please contact the New York Academy of Sciences directly to place your order ( Members of the New York Academy of Science receive full-text access to the Annals online and discounts on print volumes. Please visit for more information about becoming a member.