Efficient feeder-free episomal reprogramming with small molecules

PLoS One. 2011 Mar 1;6(3):e17557. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017557.


Genetic reprogramming of human somatic cells to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) could offer replenishable cell sources for transplantation therapies. To fulfill their promises, human iPSCs will ideally be free of exogenous DNA (footprint-free), and be derived and cultured in chemically defined media free of feeder cells. Currently, methods are available to enable efficient derivation of footprint-free human iPSCs. However, each of these methods has its limitations. We have previously derived footprint-free human iPSCs by employing episomal vectors for transgene delivery, but the process was inefficient and required feeder cells. Here, we have greatly improved the episomal reprogramming efficiency using a cocktail containing MEK inhibitor PD0325901, GSK3β inhibitor CHIR99021, TGF-β/Activin/Nodal receptor inhibitor A-83-01, ROCK inhibitor HA-100 and human leukemia inhibitory factor. Moreover, we have successfully established a feeder-free reprogramming condition using chemically defined medium with bFGF and N2B27 supplements and chemically defined human ESC medium mTeSR1 for the derivation of footprint-free human iPSCs. These improvements enabled the routine derivation of footprint-free human iPSCs from skin fibroblasts, adipose tissue-derived cells and cord blood cells. This technology will likely be valuable for the production of clinical-grade human iPSCs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Cellular Reprogramming / drug effects
  • Cellular Reprogramming / genetics*
  • Culture Media / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Plasmids / drug effects
  • Plasmids / genetics*
  • Transgenes / genetics


  • Culture Media
  • Enzyme Inhibitors