Twenty Years of Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Farm Animals


Authors’ address (for correspondence): Le Ann Blomberg, Animal Biosciences and Biotechnology Laboratory, USDA-ARS, Animal and Natural Resources Institute, Bldg 200, Rm 217A, BARC-East, Beltsville, MD 20705. E-mail:


Notable distinctions between an embryonic stem cell (ESC) and somatic cell are that an ESC can maintain an undifferentiated state indefinitely, self-renew, and is pluripotent, meaning that the ESC can potentially generate cells representing all the three primordial germ layers and contribute to the terminally differentiated cells of a conceptus. These attributes make the ESC an ideal source for genome editing for both agricultural and biomedical applications. Although, ESC lines have been successfully established from rodents and primates, authentic ungulate stem cell lines on the contrary are still not available. Outstanding issues including but not limited to differences in pluripotency characteristics among the existing ESC lines, pre-implantation embryo development, pluripotency pathways, and culture conditions plague our efforts to establish authentic ESC lines from farm animals. In this review, we highlight some of these issues and discuss how the recent derivation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) might augur the establishment of robust authentic ESC lines from farm animals.