• embryonic stem cells;
  • embryonic carcinoma cells;
  • induced pluripotent stem cells;
  • pluripotency;
  • p53;
  • teratocarcinoma


Pluripotent stem cells have gained special attraction because of their almost unlimited proliferation and differentiation capacity in vitro. These properties substantiate the potential of pluripotent stem cells in basic research and regenerative medicine. Here three types of in vitro-cultured pluripotent stem cells (embryonic carcinoma, embryonic stem and induced pluripotent stem cells) are compared in their historical context with respect to their different origin and properties. It became evident that tumourigenicity is an inherent property of pluripotent cells based on p53 down-regulation, expression of tumour-related genes and high telomerase activity that allow unlimited proliferation. In addition, culture-adapted genetic and epigenetic changes may induce tumourigenicity of pluripotent cells. The use of stem cells in regenerative medicine, however, requires non-malignant cell types and strategies that circumvent stages of malignancy. Reprogramming strategies of adult somatic cells that avoid the tumourigenic state of pluripotency may offer alternatives for future biomedical application.