Human embryonic stem (ES) cells provide a novel opportunity to study early developmental events in a human system. We have used human ES cell lines, including clonally derived lines, to evaluate haematopoiesis. Co-culture of the human ES cells with irradiated bone marrow stromal cell lines in the presence of fetal bovine serum (FBS), but without other exogenous cytokines, leads to differentiation of the human ES cells within a matter of days. A portion of these differentiated cells express CD34, the best-defined marker for early haematopoietic cells. Haematopoietic colony-forming cells (CFCs) are demonstrated by methylcellulose assay. Myeloid, erythroid, megakaryocyte and multipotential CFCs can all be derived under these conditions. Enrichment of CD34+ cells derived from the human ES cells markedly increases the yield of CFCs, as would be expected for cells derived from adult bone marrow or umbilical cord blood. Transcription factors are also expressed in a manner consistent with haematopoietic differentiation. This system now presents the potential to evaluate specific conditions needed to induce or support events in early human blood development. Human ES cells are also a novel source of cells for transplantation therapies. The immunogenicity of ES cell-derived cells is unknown. The unique properties of ES cells afford the opportunity to explore novel mechanisms to prevent immune-mediated rejection. Potential strategies to overcome rejection will be presented, including creation of haematopoietic chimerism as a means to successfully transplant cells and tissues derived from human ES cells.
- Embryonic stem cells