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Nat Protoc. 2006;1(4):2026-36.

In vitro generation of germ cells from murine embryonic stem cells.

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  • 1Graduate Program of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


The demonstration of germ cell and haploid gamete development from embryonic stem cells (ESCs) in vitro has engendered a unique set of possibilities for the study of germ cell development and the associated epigenetic phenomenon. The process of embryoid body (EB) differentiation, like teratoma formation, signifies a spontaneous differentiation of ESCs into cells of all three germ layers, and it is from these differentiating aggregates of cells that putative primordial germ cells (PGCs) and more mature gametes can be identified and isolated. The differentiation system presented here requires the differentiation of murine ESCs into EBs and the subsequent isolation of PGCs as well as haploid male gametes from EBs at various stages of differentiation. It serves as a platform for studying the poorly understood process of germ cell allocation, imprint erasure and gamete formation, with 4-6 weeks being required to isolate PGCs as well as haploid cells.

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