The culture of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) is limited, both technically and with respect to clinical potential, by the use of mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) as a feeder layer. The concern over xenogeneic contaminants from the mouse feeder cells may restrict transplantation to humans and the variability in MEFs from batch-to-batch and laboratory-to-laboratory may contribute to some of the variability in experimental results. Finally, use of any feeder layer increases the work load and subsequently limits the large-scale culture of human ES cells. Thus, the development of feeder-free cultures will allow more reproducible culture conditions, facilitate scale-up and potentiate the clinical use of cells differentiated from hESC cultures. In this review, we describe various methods tested to culture cells in the absence of MEF feeder layers and other advances in eliminating xenogeneic products from the culture system.