Human embryonic stem cells, because of their unique combination of long-term self-renewal properties and pluripotency, are providing new avenues of investigation of stem cell biology and human development and show promise in providing a new source of human cells for transplantation therapies and pharmaceutical testing. Current methods of propagating these cells using combinations of mouse fibroblast feeder cultures and bovine serum components are inexpensive and, in general, useful. However, the systematic investigation of the regulation of self-renewal and the production of safer sources of cells for transplantation depends on the elimination of animal products and the use of defined culture conditions. Both goals are served by the development of serum-free culture methods for human embryonic stem cells.
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