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Differentiation. 2009 Jul;78(1):18-23. doi: 10.1016/j.diff.2009.03.004. Epub 2009 Apr 23.

Gene expression profiles of human inner cell mass cells and embryonic stem cells.

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  • 1Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94304-5542, USA.


Human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines are derived from the inner cell mass (ICM) of preimplantation human blastocysts obtained on days 5-6 following fertilization. Based on their derivation, they were once thought to be the equivalent of the ICM. Recently, however, studies in mice reported the derivation of mouse embryonic stem cell lines from the epiblast; these epiblast lines bear significant resemblance to human embryonic stem cell lines in terms of culture, differentiation potential and gene expression. In this study, we compared gene expression in human ICM cells isolated from the blastocyst and embryonic stem cells. We demonstrate that expression profiles of ICM clusters from single embryos and hESC populations were highly reproducible. Moreover, comparison of global gene expression between individual ICM clusters and human embryonic stem cells indicated that these two cell types are significantly different in regards to gene expression, with fewer than one half of all genes expressed in both cell types. Genes of the isolated human inner cell mass that are upregulated and downregulated are involved in numerous cellular pathways and processes; a subset of these genes may impart unique characteristics to hESCs such as proliferative and self-renewal properties.

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