Stem cell research
Trends and perspectives on the evolving international landscape
Stem cell research holds a great potential to revolutionize healthcare. Great hope is invested in this field to deliver new treatments for many serious conditions for which few effective treatments currently exist.
Some basic research findings are being translated into new treatments, and with the discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells in 2006, the field has seen a step-change in biological understanding that will affect the way new drugs are identified and tested, and potentially, the way cells can be generated in the lab. While the field attracted priority status in many countries, it has always been exposed to continuous discussion on ethics and regulation which greatly impacts the direction of each nation.
This report, “Stem Cell Research: Trends and perspectives on the evolving international landscape”, was jointly prepared by Elsevier, EuroStemCell and Kyoto University’s Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS) and has been discussed at the World Stem Cell Summit 2013. Using publication data based on Scopus® the report analyzes the growth and development of the stem cell field as a whole, then more closely examines embryonic stem (ES) cell and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell research outputs.
In order to provide a broad and transparent data driven view of the field, the study reviewed leading nations’ research output, citation impact and collaboration behavior, as well as assessing various countries’ differences in focus and its growth.
The rapidly growing field of stem cell research
Research in the field has grown and changed remarkably. Stem cells publication output has grown relatively quickly, at compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.0% between 2008 and 2012, which is more than double the rate of total world publications (2.9%) during the same period. However, this increase is not uniform across all stem cell research areas. The ES cell and human embryonic stem (hES) cell fields have grown more slowly than the stem cell field overall (with a CAGR of 4.9% and 5.1% respectively, during the 2008 to 2012 period. In contrast, the emerging field of iPS cell research has grown rapidly, from 108 papers in 2008 to 1,061 in 2012, representing a CAGR of 77%.
Stem cell publications are highly cited
The field as a whole has attracted considerable attention within the scientific community: stem cell research showed an overall field-weighted citation impact (FWCI) of approximately 1.5 (2008-2012), indicating that stem cell publications, on average, were cited 50% more than the world average for all related subject areas. ES cell publications maintained a citation impact of above 1.80 (2008-2012), while the hES cell citation impact declined marginally from 2.35 in 2008 to 2.08 in 2012. The emerging field of iPS cell research showed the highest impact within the stem cell field, with a FWCI of 2.93 (2008-2012).
Singapore, Italy, the USA, Japan, and Israel show the highest activity levels in stem cell research
While the USA and China produced the highest volume of research, a number of countries showed higher levels of relative activity, a measure that relates country output levels to global activity level. Countries with the highest relative activity levels in stem cell research were: Singapore (1.8 times the global level), Italy (1.65 times the global level), the USA (1.61 times the global level), Japan (1.53 times the global level), and Israel (1.52 times the global level).
Approximately half of all stem cell papers use keywords related to “drug development” or “regenerative medicine”
Reflecting the field’s ongoing development and clinical promise, 47% of stem cell publications used keywords related to regenerative medicine, while 2% used keywords related to drug development. However, iPS cell publications featured drug development more prominently (in 11% of iPS cell publications). The use of keywords related to “drug development” was also associated with higher citation impact.
“Society has high expectations toward stem cell research. I hope society will be tolerant enough to support and nurture an atmosphere where challenge is welcomed. Not all research always sees its light, and there are countless errors behind the scenes. Science builds upon the footprints of other researchers, and encouraging challenge is what strengthens the research power of a nation as a whole...In translational research, scientists are there to provide evidence to inform risks. It’s then for society to judge whether that should be brought to the clinic.” Akihiro Umezawa, Deputy Director, Research Institute, National Center for Child Health and Development.