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Anim Sci J. 2014 Jun;85(6):617-26. doi: 10.1111/asj.12199. Epub 2014 Apr 13.

Perspectives of germ cell development in vitro in mammals.

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Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan; CiRA, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan; PRESTO, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Saitama, Japan.


Pluripotent stem cells, such as embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are able to differentiate into all cell lineages of the embryo proper, including germ cells. This pluripotent property has a huge impact on the fields of regenerative medicine, developmental biology and reproductive engineering. Establishing the germ cell lineage from ESCs/iPSCs is the key biological subject, since it would contribute not only to dissection of the biological processes of germ cell development but also to production of unlimited numbers of functional gametes in vitro. Toward this goal, we recently established a culture system that induces functional mouse primordial germ cells (PGCs), precursors of all germ cells, from mouse ESCs/iPSCs. The successful in vitro production of PGCs arose from the study of pluripotent cell state, the signals inducing PGCs and the technology of transplantation. However, there are many obstacles to be overcome for the robust generation of mature gametes or for application of the culture system to other species, including humans and livestock. In this review, we discuss the requirements for a culture system to generate the germ cell lineage from ESCs/iPSCs.


gametogenesis; pluripotent stem cell; primordial germ cell

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