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Cancer J. 2001 Nov-Dec;7 Suppl 2:S83-93.

Human embryonic stem cells: culture, differentiation, and genetic modification for regenerative medicine applications.

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Cell and Gene Therapy Department, Geron Corporation, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA.


Human embryonic stem (hES) cells can proliferate extensively in culture and can differentiate into representatives of all three embryonic germ layers in vitro and in vivo. The undifferentiated hES cells have now been cultured for more than 50 passages in vitro, yet maintain a normal karyotype. The hES cells express a series of specific surface antigens, as well as OCT-4 and human telomerase, proteins associated with a pluripotent and immortal phenotype. On differentiation, OCT-4 and human telomerase expression decreases with the emergence of a maturing population of cells. During hES cell differentiation, modulation of the expression of many genes has been evaluated using microarray analysis. To improve the ease, reproducibility, and scalability of hES culture, methods have been developed to propagate the cells in the absence of mouse embryonic cell feeders. hES cells maintained in culture using extracellular matrix factors together with mouse embryonic cell conditioned medium proliferate indefinitely while maintaining a normal karyotype, proliferation rate, and complement of undifferentiated cell markers. hES cells cultured without feeder layers retain their capacity to differentiate into cells of all three germ layers in vitro and in teratomas. The hES cells can also be genetically modified transiently or stably using both plasmid and viral gene transfer agents. These analyses and technological developments will aid in the realization of the full potential of hES cells for both research and therapeutic applications.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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