Biology & Medicine

Lab Resource articles give researchers credit for developing cell lines and more

Researchers have published more than 100 stem cell lines in the journal Stem Cell Research

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For researchers in the biological sciences, developing materials to use in their experiments takes up a significant proportion of their lab time. For example, they might need to create new cell lines, which other researchers would find useful in their own work. It’s an important part of the research cycle, but the time researchers spend perfecting their cell lines and filling their fridges goes sadly unrecognized.

We heard from many researchers that this was frustrating, so last year we developed a new kind of article that could capture the work that goes into developing new reagents like cell lines.

Researchers who develop an original resource, such as a new cell line, can be credited with a publication by publishing a description of it as a Lab Resource article. (Cartoon by Anne Ruimy)

The “Lab Resource: Stem Cell Line” pilot

We needed a new approach that would enable researchers to document their reagents in short articles, giving them credit and giving others the information they would need to replicate the work. Elsevier’s Research Elements program fit the bill: it’s a collection of Elsevier journals in which researchers can publish their data, software, materials and methods and other elements of the research cycle that cannot be published as traditional research papers in a brief article format. They can share information about experimental designs, tweaked existing methods, protocols, code, new reagents and experimental data.

We came up with the new article type – Lab Resource: Stem Cell Line – and tested it out in the open access journal Stem Cell Research. The journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Thomas Zwaka, explained why he wanted to publish a new article type describing original stem cell lines:

Pluripotent stem cell lines have provided us with unprecedented insights into health and disease. While they will guide us to understand and potentially cure some of the most devastating human disorders, difficult hurdles persist. Perhaps one of the most daunting ones is the lack of a coherent platform to exchange information concerning the thousands of stem cell lines created around the world. My idea was to close this gap.

To make it easier for researchers to prepare and submit their Lab Resource articles, the journal editors developed a template, defining the information authors needed to include in the article. The standardized format also allowed the editors to quickly evaluate the content of the article, give authors a decision within days and have accepted articles published online within two weeks from submission.

Lab Resource: Stem Cell Line articles were officially launched at the International Society for Stem Cell Research conference in Stockholm in June 2015, and the first two Lab Resource articles were published in the July 2015 issue of Stem Cell Research.

Authors Jere Weltner, Ras Trokovic, PhD, and Timo Otonkoski, MD, PhD (Research Programs Unit, Molecular Neurology, Biomedicum Stem Cell Centre, University of Helsinki) at the ISSCR conference in Stockholm in June with an offprint of the first Lab Resource article published in <em>Stem Cell Research</em> (Photo by Valentina Sasselli)

Eight months on, we are celebrating the publication of more than 100 Lab Resource articles in the March issue of Stem Cell Research.

So why has the format been so popular?

Stem Cell Research cover

The March 2016 issue of Stem Cell Research has a dedicated cover to celebrate the milestone of 100 published Lab Resources articles (Illustration by Mattias Karlen in collaboration with Heather Main). To read all articles, visit the Lab Resource ScienceDirect page.

Publishing the description of newly generated biological reagents, such as pluripotent stem cell lines, has provided researchers with ownership and recognition. But it has also provided standardization and quality control through peer review: the minimum requirements for the generation and characterization of reagents have been validated by expert reviewers, and the information is available to the community in a standard format. Dr. Jamshid Arjomand, Vice President of Business Development at Genea Biocells, explained why the format is so useful to his company:

The format of the article has allowed us to rapidly submit many of Genea Biocell’s existing lines and provide the necessary quality control information sought by the research community in their evaluation of stem cells.

Lab Resources as a resource center

It’s also helpful for authors and readers that the information can be disseminated somewhere; according to Dr. Arjomand, researchers are often simply unaware of what cell lines are available:

Our scientists at Genea Biocells have derived over 150 distinct human embryonic stem cell lines encompassing more than 30 different genetic disorders. With the exception of a few specific lines used collaboratively for disease modeling, the research community is by and large unaware of the existence of our cell bank. Having registered many of our lines with various regulatory agencies, we are continuously surprised that researchers don’t necessarily search these databases for stem cell lines, but primarily rely on standard literature search engines to identify reagents of interest. In addition, many of the quality control specifications we use to validate our cell bank don’t get captured in these databases, making the search process even more arduous. We were delighted to learn that Elsevier had developed a specialized forum to help disseminate these resources to the research community.

There is an increasing need in the community to guarantee standardization and provide access to various reagents. This is evidenced by the growth of databases and registries that collect information on resources. One such example is the group of registries that collects information on pluripotent stem cell lines, including hPSCreg, WiCell, Eagle-I and the Japanese Stem Cell registry at CiRA.

To enhance these repositories and ensure the relevant quality control is built in, we have partnered Lab Resources: Stem Cell Line with the Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Registry (hPSCreg), to offer scientists the option to publish their pluripotent cell lines upon registration into the repository. Dr. Andreas Kurtz, Director of hPSCreg, said:

We have been looking for this type of resource to disseminate the information present in the registry through publication. Importantly, users can now link multiple resources to annotate Pluripotent Stem Cell lines and connect otherwise scattered knowledge. A very appealing aspect for hPSCreg is the expectation that Lab Resources will promote harmonizing for example nomenclatures, validation standards or data access.

Thanks to this initial success and the positive feedback from the community, Lab Resources sections have already been included in other Elsevier journals with the aim to cover as many reagents as possible from all research fields.

Lab Resources and Research Elements

Research Elements article typesLab Resource articles, which are open access, enable authors to describe and share details of their custom-made laboratory resources, such as cell lines, antibodies and transgenic animals. This new article type is part of Elsevier’s Research Elements program, which provides peer-reviewed article formats describing elements of the research cycle such as data, software and materials and methods.

Lab Resource sections can be currently found in:

  • Stem Cell Research, dedicated to pluripotent stem cell lines
  • Genomics Data, a wide range of lab resources useful in genomics research
  • Toxicology Letters, dedicated to the generation and characterization of unique cell lines for use as an in vitro model system in toxicology testing

Elsevier Connect Contributors

Anne Ruimy, PhDValentina Sasselli, PhDDr. Anne Ruimy joined Elsevier Ireland in 2006 as a journal manager. She is now working as interim publisher on the biochemistry and social sciences publishing teams. She was interim publisher of Stem Cell Research until June 2015, and has helped launch Lab Resources sections in three journals to date.

Dr. Ruimy has a PhD in Ecology from the University of Paris-XI, France, and did postdoctoral research on global models of plant production in the context of climate change at Carnegie Institution, Stanford.

Dr. Valentina Sasselli joined Elsevier in 2015 as Associate Publisher for Stem Cell Research and cell and developmental biology journals. Before joining Elsevier, she conducted postdoctoral research in adult stem cell biology at the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht, the Netherlands. She has a research master’s degree in Medical Biotechnology from the University of Bologna, Italy, and a PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology from University College London.


The Lab Resources project team in 2015 also included Jagna Mirska-Gent (Senior Publisher), Jasmin Bakker (Editorial Manager), Denise Wells (Scientific Editorial Manager) and Paige Shaklee (Publisher).

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