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Embryonic Stem Cells

Stem Cells

  1. Mahendra Rao

Published Online: 10 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/3527600906.mcb.200400127.pub2

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

How to Cite

Rao, M. 2013. Embryonic Stem Cells. Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine. .

Author Information

  1. National Institutes of Health, Center for Regenerative Medicine, Bethesda, MD, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 10 FEB 2013


Embryonic development prior to implantation of the embryo in the uterus includes a stage of blastocyst formation, where the initial mass of cells is segregated into an inner cell mass (ICM) that is destined to contribute to the developing embryo, and an outer layer of cells that will contribute to the fetal portion of the placenta. Embryonic stem (ES) cells are derived from the ICM of the developing pre-embryo that can be propagated indefinitely in culture. ES cells are characterized by the expression of a characteristic set of markers, the ability to self-renew indefinitely, a lack of contact inhibition, atypical cell cycle regulation, the ability to form teratocarcinomas in nude mice, and the ability to differentiate into ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm either in vitro or in vivo after injection into blastocysts. This constellation of abilities distinguishes ES cells from all other cell populations, including adult stem cells. The unique ability of ES cells to be propagated in culture, to undergo genetic manipulation but, nevertheless, to retain their ability to contribute to all portions of the developing embryos (including germ cells) has been utilized to generate transgenic animals in which specific genes are introduced or removed. Such transgenic and knock-outs have been utilized effectively to generate animal models of human disease, to develop improved strains, and to study critical aspects of development. The ability to manipulate ES cells such that subsequent generations are derived solely from cultured manipulated cells, coupled with recent advances in deriving primate (including human) ES cell lines, has generated much excitement and hope, as well as profound ethical concerns and considerable debate on how best to proceed.


  • Blastocyst;
  • Centrosome;
  • Chimera;
  • Cloning;
  • Embryo stem-like cells;
  • Gastrulation;
  • Homologous recombination;
  • Induced pluripotent cells;
  • Inner cell mass;
  • In − vitro fertilization;
  • Multipotent adult progenitor cell;
  • Morula;
  • Pre-embryo;
  • Somatic cell nuclear transfer;
  • Self-renewal;
  • Stem cells;
  • Teratocarcinomas;
  • Trophoectoderm