How are pluripotent cells generated?


March 2020

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Pluripotent, i.e. undifferentiated cells are naturally generated (in vivo) in the blastocysts, an early embryonic stage. They form the inner cell mass. These stem cells form all cells of the embryo (A) during development, but not the extra-embryonic cells of the placenta. In cell culture (in vitro), the cells of the inner cell mass can divide almost indefinitely, and make a culture of embryonic stem cells (ES cells) (B). Through research by Shinya Yamanaka, it is now possible to reprogram body cells into pluripotent stem cells (induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells)). This induction is achieved by means of four transcription factors, i.e. factors that bind to the DNA in the nucleus and regulate genes (C).

Figure: Generation of pluripotent cells: A) In vivo, pluripotent stem cells exist only temporarily in the inner cell mass of the blastocyst; B) The cells of the inner cell mass can be taken into culture (in vitro) from the blastocyst and proliferate permanently undifferentiated.

Figure: C) The derivation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) from somatic cells with four transcription factors ( Reprogramming).

Accompanying Material

Further content in the module Basics

  • Stem cell types



    Different types of stem cell from embryonic stem cells to induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSc).

  • Blood stem cells



    Blood stem cells are the first and best known stem cells in stem cell research. Still today scientists learn from blood stem cells and develop new methods for the use in the clinic.

  • Forms of Reprogramming



    iPS cells and reprogramming: turn any cell of the body into a stem cell - Reprogramming allows the nucleus of any cell in the body to be returned to an early stage of embryonic development.

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