If there is any? Stem cell biology and regenerative medicine as an institutionally specified discipline is quite young, about a decade old. Bone marrow transplantation traces its roots back to the 1970-s, but many people don’t realize that it is the most useful although restricted form of stem cell therapy till this day. In my opinion the birth date of present day stem cell biology is Thomson et al.’s 1998 November paper in Science on Embryonic Stem Cell Lines Derived from Human Blastocysts.
Not because it was so original. It is known that much of the embryonic stem cell isolation protocol and the in vivo teratoma forming as pluripotency test came from two papers by Cambridge biologists, appeared in 1981 that reported the derivation of pluripotent stem cell lines from cultured mouse embryos. But the Thomson results were based on human cells and this is a crucial difference concerning potential regenerative therapies as it was discussed in the paper: “The standardized production of large, purified populations of euploid human cells such as cardiomyocytes and neurons will provide a potentially limitless source of cells for drug discovery and transplantation therapies. Many diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and juvenile-onset diabetes mellitus, result from the death or dysfunction of just one or a few cell types. The replacement of those cells could offer lifelong treatment.” Also the timing of the paper was good. The 2 Cambridge papers, which were also mentioned as references in the Thomson et al. paper.:
Evans, M. J. & Kaufman, M. H. Establishment in culture of pluripotential cells from mouse embryos. Nature 292, 154-6. (1981).
Martin, G. R. Isolation of a pluripotent cell line from early mouse embryos cultured in medium conditioned by teratocarcinoma stem cells. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 78, 7634-7638 (1981).
In your opinion: What is the birth date of present day stem cell biology? Is there any discrete point? How would you locate the beginnings of stem cell science in time and space?