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Biol Chem. 2003 Oct-Nov;384(10-11):1391-409.

Potential of embryonic and adult stem cells in vitro.

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  • 1In Vitro Differentiation Group, IPK Gatersleben, Corrensstrasse 3, D-06466 Gatersleben, Germany.


Recent developments in the field of stem cell research indicate their enormous potential as a source of tissue for regenerative therapies. The success of such applications will depend on the precise properties and potentials of stem cells isolated either from embryonic, fetal or adult tissues. Embryonic stem cells established from the inner cell mass of early mouse embryos are characterized by nearly unlimited proliferation, and the capacity to differentiate into derivatives of essentially all lineages. The recent isolation and culture of human embryonic stem cell lines presents new opportunities for reconstructive medicine. However, important problems remain; first, the derivation of human embryonic stem cells from in vitro fertilized blastocysts creates ethical problems, and second, the current techniques for the directed differentiation into somatic cell populations yield impure products with tumorigenic potential. Recent studies have also suggested an unexpectedly wide developmental potential of adult tissue-specific stem cells. Here too, many questions remain concerning the nature and status of adult stem cells both in vivo and in vitro and their proliferation and differentiation/transdifferentiation capacity. This review focuses on those issues of embryonic and adult stem cell biology most relevant to their in vitro propagation and differentiation. Questions and problems related to the use of human embryonic and adult stem cells in tissue regeneration and transplantation are discussed.

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