2009 Lecture 21

From CellBiology

Stem Cells


Week 1 Human Development - Embryonic Stem Cells
NIH - stem cell cartoon

The term "stem cell" is used so freely these days in many different forums that it is difficult sometimes understand without context what scientists, politicians, ethicists and commentators are discussing. This lecture will focus on the cell biology of stem cells and the current research on growing and differentiating theses cells.

Background information can also be found at UNSW Embryology Stem Cells and Week 1 Development.

Research that led to Stem Cells

  • Human Diseases
    • Generation of “knock out” mice
  • Human Development
    • Studying regulation of cell differentiation in development
  • Human Reproduction
    • Disorders, sterility

Tissue Stem Cells

  • differentiated cells have short life spans continually replaced
  • blood cells, epithelial cells of skin and digestive tract
  • fully differentiated cells do not proliferate
  • proliferation of less differentiated- stem cells
  • produce daughter cells that either differentiate or remain as stem cells

Blood Cells

  • All different types of blood cells develop from a pluripotent stem cell in bone marrow
  • Precursors of differentiated cells undergo several rounds of cell division as they mature
    • proliferation ceases at terminal stages of differentiation

Embryonic Stem Cells

NIH - What are embryonic stem cells?

Pluripotent Stem Cells

  • What is a stem cell- Pluripotent
  • Pluripotent - to describe stem cells that can give rise to cells derived from all 3 embryonic germ layers
    • Mesoderm
    • Endoderm
    • Ectoderm
  • layers are embryonic source of all cells of the body


  • hollow structure composed of about 100 cells surrounding an inner cavity
  • Only ES cells, which form inner cell mass, actually form the embryo.
  • ES cells can be removed from the blastocyst and grown on lethally irradiated “feeder cells.” (See E. Robertson et al., 1986, Nature 323:445)

Stem Cell Definition

  • cell that has ability to divide for indefinite periods
  • self replicate
  • throughout life of organism
  • stem cells can differentiate
    • conditions, signals
  • to the many different cell types

Chimeric Mouse

  • ES or teratocarcinoma
  • shows that stem cells can combine with cells of a normal blastocyst to form a healthy chimeric mouse

Historic References


  • Isolation of a pluripotent cell line from early mouse embryos cultured in medium conditioned by teratocarcinoma stem cells. Martin GR. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1981 Dec;78(12):7634-8.
  • Characterization of a pluripotent stem cell line derived from a mouse embryo. Wobus AM, Holzhausen H, Jakel P, Schoneich J. Exp Cell Res. 1984 May;152(1):212-9.
  • Transgenesis by means of blastocyst-derived embryonic stem cell lines Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1986 Dec;83(23):9065-9. Gossler A, Doetschman T, Korn R, Serfling E, Kemler R.

Pig and Sheep

Derivation of pluripotent, embryonic cell lines from the pig and sheep. Notarianni E, Galli C, Laurie S, Moor RM, Evans MJ. J Reprod Fertil Suppl. 1991;43:255-60.


Isolation of a primate embryonic stem cell line. Thomson JA, Kalishman J, Golos TG, Durning M, Harris CP, Becker RA, Hearn JP. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Aug 15;92(17):7844-8.


Embryonic stem cell lines derived from human blastocysts. Thomson JA, Itskovitz-Eldor J, Shapiro SS, Waknitz MA, Swiergiel JJ, Marshall VS, Jones JM. Science. 1998 Nov 6;282(5391):1145-7.

Cord Blood Stem Cells

  • Blood collected from the placental umbilical cord of a newborn baby shortly after birth
    • total amount of blood about 90 ml
  • blood stem cells that can be used to generate red blood cells and cells of the immune system
  • collected, typed, stored in Cord Blood Bank
    • Both public and private Banks have arisen
    • available for use by the donor and compatible siblings
  • suggested use to treat a range of blood disorders and immune system conditions such as leukaemia, anaemia and autoimmune diseases
  • cells provide a resource for bone marrow replacement therapy in many diseases

Cord Blood - Disease Treatments

  • Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia
  • Acute Myeloblastic Leukaemia
  • Adrenoleukodystrophy
  • Blackfan-Diamond
  • Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia
  • Chronic Lymphocytic leukaemia
  • Fanconi's Anaemia
  • Hurler's Syndrome
  • Krabbe's disease
  • Lymphomas
  • Myelodysplastic Syndrome
  • Mucolipopolysaccharide deficiency
  • Osteopetrosis
  • Syndrome Severe Aplastic Anaemia
  • Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease
  • Thalassaemia
  • Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome
  • Miscellaneous
  • Cancer
  • Genetic disorders
  • Immune deficiency
  • Storage disorders

Adult Stem Cells

NIH - What are adult stem cells?

Induced Pluripotent Cells

  • non-pluripotent cells engineered to become pluripotent
    • a cell with a specialized function ‘reprogrammed’ to an unspecialized state

Stem Cell Markers

In order to carry out research on stem cells, it is important to be able to identify them. A number of different research groups in the late 90's generated several antibodies which specifically identified undifferentiated, differentiating or differentiated stem cells from a number of different sources and species. Note that the nomenclature in some cases is based upon the antibody used to identify the cell surface marker.

  • Every cell surface has specialized proteins (receptors) that can selectively bind or adhere to other “signalling” molecules (ligands)
  • Different types of receptors differ in structure and affinity for signalling molecules
  • Cells use these receptors and molecules that bind to them as a way of communicating with other cells and to carry out their proper functions in the body

  • Stage-Specific Embryonic Antigen-1 (SSEA-1) cell surface embryonic antigen which has a role in cell adhesion, migration and differentiation and is often differentially expressed during development. Can be identified by Davor Solter monoclonal antibody MC-480 (SSEA-1).
  • Stage-Specific Embryonic Antigen-4 (SSEA-4) cell surface embryonic antigen of human teratocarcinoma stem cells (EC), human embryonic germ cells (EG) and human embryonic stem cells (ES) which is down-regulated following differentiation of human EC cells. Antigen not expressed on undifferentiated murine EC, ES and EG cells but upregulated on differentiation of murine EC and ES cells. Can be identified by Davor Solter monoclonal antibody MC-813-70 (SSEA-4)
  • Tumor Rejection Antigen (TRA-1-60) Sialylated Keratan Sulfate Proteoglycan expressed on the surface of human teratocarcinoma stem cells (EC), human embryonic germ cells (EG) and human embryonic stem cells (ES).
  • Tumor Rejection Antigen (TRA-1-81) antigen expressed on the surface of human teratocarcinoma stem cells (EC), human embryonic germ cells (EG) and human embryonic stem cells (ES).
    • Both TRA antibodies identify a major polypeptide (Mr 240 kDa) and a minor polypeptide (Mr 415 kDa).
  • Oct-4 (Pou5f1 – Mouse Genome Informatics) gene has an essential role in control of developmental pluripotency (Oct4 knockout embryo blastocysts die at the time of implantation). Oct4 also has a role in maintaining viability of mammalian germline.
  • Stem Cell Antigen 1 (Sca-1) member of the Ly-6 family of GPI-linked surface proteins (Mr 18 kDa) and a major phenotypic marker for mouse hematopoietic progenitor/stem cell subset.
  • CD133, AC133, prominin 5 transmembrane glycoprotein (865 aa) expressed on stem cells with hematopoietic and nonhematopoietic differentiation potential.

Alpha 6 integrin



Essential Cell Biology

  • Chapter 19 Tissues p622-627

Molecular Biology of the Cell

Alberts, Bruce; Johnson, Alexander; Lewis, Julian; Raff, Martin; Roberts, Keith; Walter, Peter New York and London: Garland Science; c2002

  • Molecular Biology of the Cell 4th ed. - Chapter 19 Cellular Mechanisms of Development p1037-1039

Molecular Cell Biology

Lodish, Harvey; Berk, Arnold; Zipursky, S. Lawrence; Matsudaira, Paul; Baltimore, David; Darnell, James E. New York: W. H. Freeman & Co.; c1999

The Cell- A Molecular Approach

Cooper, Geoffrey M. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates, Inc.; c2000

  • The Cell - A Molecular Approach - IV. Cell Regulation Chapter 14. Cell Proliferation in Development and Differentiation
  • Stem Cells

Search Online Textbooks




  • Jensen J, Hyllner J, Björquist P. Human embryonic stem cell technologies and drug discovery. J Cell Physiol. 2009 Jun;219(3):513-9. Review. PMID: 19277978


  • Allen ND, Baird DM. Telomere length maintenance in stem cell populations. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 Feb 11. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 19419691
  • Kenji Matsumoto, Takayuki Isagawa, Toshinobu Nishimura, Takunori Ogaeri, Koji Eto, Satsuki Miyazaki, Jun-ichi Miyazaki, Hiroyuki Aburatani, Hiromitsu Nakauchi, and Hideo Ema Stepwise Development of Hematopoietic Stem Cells from Embryonic Stem Cells PLoS ONE. 2009; 4(3): e4820. Published online 2009 March 16. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004820. PMCID: PMC2653650

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