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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Jan 2;98(1):113-8.

Human embryonic germ cell derivatives express a broad range of developmentally distinct markers and proliferate extensively in vitro.

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Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA.


Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) have been derived from the inner cell mass cells of blastocysts (embryonic stem cells) and primordial germ cells of the developing gonadal ridge (embryonic germ cells). Like their mouse counterparts, hPSCs can be maintained in culture in an undifferentiated state and, upon differentiation, generate a wide variety of cell types. Embryoid body (EB) formation is a requisite step in the process of in vitro differentiation of these stem cells and has been used to derive neurons and glia, vascular endothelium, hematopoietic cells, cardiomyocytes, and glucose-responsive insulin-producing cells from mouse PSCs. EBs generated from human embryonic germ cell cultures have also been found to contain a wide variety of cell types, including neural cells, vascular endothelium, muscle cells, and endodermal derivatives. Here, we report the isolation and culture of cells from human EBs as well as a characterization of their gene expression during growth in several different culture environments. These heterogeneous cell cultures are capable of robust and long-term [>70 population doublings (PD)] proliferation in culture, have normal karyotypes, and can be cryopreserved, clonally isolated, and stably transfected. Cell cultures and clonal lines retain a broad pattern of gene expression including simultaneous expression of markers normally associated with cells of neural, vascular/hematopoietic, muscle, and endoderm lineages. The growth and expression characteristics of these EB-derived cells suggest that they are relatively uncommitted precursor or progenitor cells. EB-derived cells may be suited to studies of human cell differentiation and may play a role in future transplantation therapies.

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