Special Issue: Translational Cell Biology
Cell biology – consultant for the clinic Danielle T. Loughlin (Editor) Trends in Cell Biology
The field of cell biology is based on innate curiosity about the fundamental mechanisms underlying cellular function. Although many cell biologists do not embark on their studies with the aim of curing disease, there is ample evidence that their basic research discoveries can lay the foundation for translational success. The exchange is also two way: diseased cells can also give us insight into basic biological mechanisms. Despite this connection, the process of applying fundamental discoveries to clinical approaches remains inefficient. In an effort to bridge the gap between basic and clinical science, there is an increasing focus on translational research, with a specific goal of applying basic scientific discoveries to therapeutic investigations. Cell biologists are in a prime position to contribute to understanding of the mechanisms underlying disease and to the development of novel therapeutics. This special issue of Trends in Cell Biology focuses on areas of cell biological research that could ultimately lead to important clinical applications, with a range of articles that illustrate some of the ways biologists are approaching translational studies. The issue begins with an article on the translational impact of disease modeling by Leonard Zon and Julien Ablain, who discuss how the high genetic conservation observed between humans and zebrafish has moved zebrafish to the forefront of preclinical disease modeling. Next, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte and colleagues discuss how reprogramming to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) can mask disease-associated phenotypes in patient-derived cells and how analysis of these changes can help us to understand underlying disease mechanisms. The remaining reviews highlight the contributions that cell biology has made toward understanding the mechanisms behind some of today’s deadliest diseases. Two groups review the mechanisms by which cancer cells become malignant and metastasize. Gian Paolo Dotto and Sandro Goruppi provide evidence for how a dysregulated tissue microenvironment may drive the progression of epithelial cells into malignancy and potential targets to reduce this incidence. Yibin Kang and colleagues examine transcriptional networks linked to various stages of metastasis and suggest how these transcriptional changes may predict the efficacy of their use as therapeutic targets.
Despite this growing knowledge, conventional therapies work in only a limited number of cancer types, and the reason underlying this selection bias has puzzled scientists and clinicians alike. Two groups discuss potential ways that cancer cells resist treatment. Anthony Letai and colleagues discuss the role of the mitochondria in mediating the effects of chemotherapy on cancer cells, while Manabu Kurokawa and Kaleigh Fernald examine how cancer cells adopt strategies to evade apoptosis. The importance of translational studies is further highlighted by discussion of neurodegenerative diseases. Cell biologists have made tremendous progress in understanding how neurons transfer information along their axons to communicate with neighboring cells and how impairment of these processes contributes to neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Fre´de´ric Saudou and colleagues debate the importance of fast axonal transport in neurodegeneration. To perform this ‘information-relay’ function, neurons expend a large amount of energy. Jeffrey Rothstein and colleagues offer insight into the role of oligodendroglia in providing this metabolic support for neighboring axons and suggests its failure may underlie the pathogenesis of ALS. Covering a third area, Philippe Benaroch and colleagues examine the inner workings of HIV–host cell interactions and discuss the mechanisms by which HIV usurps the host cytoskeleton and molecular motors to promote viral entry and egress. Therapeutic strategies directed against HIV proteins used to hijack the host machinery could provide a new avenue for developing drugs to control this disease. This collection of reviews underscores the translational value that basic science provides to the clinic. I hope these reviews continue to promote the curiosity that laid the foundation for cell biology and inspire scientists to probe the depths of the basic biological processes that interest them in anticipation that their findings will empower others to develop therapeutic applications. I send a special thank you to the former editor of Trends in Cell Biology Rebecca Alvania for conceiving the theme of this issue. I thank all the authors and reviewers for their contributions to this special issue and hope you enjoy reading it. I welcome your comments and ideas, and you can always contact us with your feedback or questions at [email protected]
Corresponding author: Loughlin, D.T. ([email protected]
). 0962-8924/$ – see front matter ß 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tcb.2013.10.002 Trends in Cell Biology, December 2013, Vol. 23, No. 12