Comparative evaluation of various human feeders for prolonged undifferentiated growth of human embryonic stem cells

Stem Cells. 2003;21(5):546-56. doi: 10.1634/stemcells.21-5-546.


Human embryonic stem (hES) cells are typically derived and serially propagated on inactivated murine embryonic fibroblast (MEF) feeders. The use of MEFs and other components of animal origin in the culture media for hES cell support substantially elevates the risk of contaminating these cell lines with infectious agents of animal origin thereby severely limiting their potential for clinical application. We have previously shown that it is possible to derive and establish new hES cell lines in a xeno-free culture system using human fetal muscle fibroblast feeders. In this report, we have comparatively evaluated a panel of 11 different human adult, fetal, and neonatal feeders for hES cell support and have ranked them as supportive and non-supportive. We report that two adult skin fibroblast cell lines established in-house from abdominal skin biopsies supported prolonged undifferentiated hES cell growth for over 30 weekly passages in culture. Furthermore, hES cell lines cultured on adult skin fibroblast feeders retain hES cell morphology and remain pluripotent. Also, differences in feeder support exist between human cell types and sources. The use of human adult skin feeders is convenient for hES cell support given the ease of obtaining skin biopsies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / chemistry
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Line*
  • Coculture Techniques / methods*
  • Culture Media, Conditioned / pharmacology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology*
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / physiology
  • Humans
  • Karyotyping
  • Mice
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Skin / cytology
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology
  • Teratoma / chemistry


  • Biomarkers
  • Culture Media, Conditioned