Derivation of distal airway epithelium from human embryonic stem cells

Tissue Eng. 2006 Apr;12(4):867-75. doi: 10.1089/ten.2006.12.867.


The pluripotency of embryonic stem cells (ESC) is offering new opportunities in tissue engineering and cell therapy. We have shown previously that alveolar epithelial cells, specifically type II pneumocytes, can be derived from murine ESC and hypothesized that a similar protocol could be used successfully on human ESC. Undifferentiated human ESC were induced to form embryoid bodies that were transferred into adherent culture conditions and grown in a medium designed for the maintenance of mature small airway epithelium. On inverted microscopy, the generated cells showed the cobblestone-like morphology of epithelium. The presence of surfactant protein C, a specific marker of type II pneumocytes, and its corresponding RNA were demonstrated by immunostaining and reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, respectively. Electron microscopy revealed frequent cells with the typical ultrastructure of type II pneumocytes. This study provides evidence for in vitro induction of the differentiation from human ESC of alveolar type II cells, which have the potential for therapeutic use or construction of an in vitro model of human lung.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Collagenases / pharmacology
  • Culture Media / chemistry
  • Culture Media / pharmacology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 / genetics
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 / pharmacology
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / cytology*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / ultrastructure
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / pharmacology
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue Engineering / methods*


  • Biomarkers
  • Culture Media
  • Pulmonary Surfactants
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2
  • Collagenases