Preface To The Student

As of this book's completion there has been a significant lack of suitable educational materials to prepare future scientists and medical researchers in the discipline of stem cell biology.  To date, no comprehensive text exists which effectively compiles a combination of the basic principles of stem cell biology with a delineation of the most cutting-edge research, scientific and medical findings in this area.  As such, students contemplating a career in the stem cell arena are left to cobble together research and reviews in the field.  I have thus attempted to develop a comprehensive text that, if studied as outlined, will provide you with the knowledge base needed to either consider a career in this exciting area or further advance your basic understanding of stem cell biology and how the science may be translated into useful medical applications.  It is my belief that if you take the time to read each chapter, review the chapter summaries, glossaries, and review questions, you will be thoroughly prepared to consider a career in this exciting field.

The text of the book is composed such that it draws on fact, beginning with the history of stem cell research and the basic biology of what it means to possess the property of "stemness."  I have based the entire book on factual research and peer-reviewed publications in leading medical journals.  No facet of the field of stem cell research is glossed over, including that of embryonic stem cells.  In addition, I have not passed judgment regarding any aspect of the subject of stem cells.  Rather, I have simply objectively conveyed the information in as comprehensive a manner as possible, and my goal is to allow you, the student, to both absorb the material and to form your own opinions on the science and its impact on medicine.  As the field is rapidly maturing, there are several instances when the central dogma of cell biology is countered and tested, and I do not gloss over or downplay findings that may not fit in with the general beliefs of researchers in the field.  For example, Ramon y Cajal's "no new neurons" hypothesis was clearly disproven, and I have delineated this fact. 

Regarding its organization, I have chosen to write this book in review format with key examples of research findings and data that drive home the points and principles of stem cell biology.  The book begins with historical perspectives and an introduction to stemness, followed by chapter after chapter of detailed description pertaining to differing stem cell types, their differentiation capacities, and potential translational applications in either diagnostic or therapeutic endeavors.  Each chapter is written in a self-contained format including an end-of-chapter summary, key terms, review questions, and cited references.  In addition, I have included Focus Boxes introducing pioneering researchers in the field and Case Studies summarizing some of the highest impact research articles published to date in the area of stem cells.  Each chapter outlines a unique aspect of stem cell science and this flow of content will allow you to have all the pertinent information you need for that particular subject matter should you choose to study only certain chapters.  However, I recommend against this and urge you to take the time to study the entire text, as it will give you a firm understanding and grasp of the history, biology and future of this exciting field.

My recommendations on how to successfully utilize this book as a learning tool are as follows:  first, read the required material prior to lecture; start with a scanning of the chapter summary followed by a thorough read;  familiarize yourself with each of the key terms at the end of the chapters and make an attempt to answer the review questions before checking them against the answers I've provided at the link; finally, scan the material again before lecture to refresh your memory of the main concepts.  If you follow these steps, you will be prepared and knowledgeable in the subject matter, making the entire course a much more enjoyable and rewarding experience.

As always I am open to your praise, comments, and criticisms.  There is no better reviewer of a college textbook than the student it is supposed to prepare and influence.  Please contact me if you have suggestions on how to make this text more valuable to future students.

                                                                                                                                                           Rob Burgess