Therapeutic potential of embryonic stem cells

Blood Rev. 2005 Nov;19(6):321-31. doi: 10.1016/j.blre.2005.01.005.


Nearly 20 years after murine embryonic stem cells (mESC) were isolated, the first report of the derivation of human embryonic stem cells (hESC) in 1998 spawned the field of hESC research [Evans MJ, Kaufman MH, Establishment in culture of pluripotential cells from mouse embryos. Nature 1981; 292 (5819): 154-6; Thomson JA, Itskovitz-Eldor J, Shapiro SS, et al. Embryonic stem cell lines derived from human blastocysts. Science 1998; 282 (5391): 1145-7.]. Although this field is only in its infancy, hESC represent a theoretically inexhaustible source of precursor cells that could be differentiated into any cell type to treat degenerative, malignant, or genetic diseases, or injury due to inflammation, infection, and trauma. This pluripotent, endlessly dividing cell has been hailed as a possible means for treating diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, spinal cord injury, heart failure, and bone marrow failure. But the regenerative medicine applications of embryonic stem cells are only one facet of hESC therapeutic potential. Human ESC are an invaluable research tool to study development, both normal and abnormal, and can serve as a platform to develop and test new therapies. In addition to discussing the therapeutic potential of hESC, this chapter will cover limitations to using hESC for replacement cell therapy, strategies to overcome these limitations, and alternative methods of deriving hESC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blastocyst / cytology
  • Blastocyst / physiology*
  • Bone Marrow Diseases / therapy
  • Central Nervous System Infections / therapy
  • Heart Failure / therapy
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Regenerative Medicine / ethics
  • Regenerative Medicine / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Regenerative Medicine / methods
  • Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / physiology*