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PLOS Genetics  2011 

The Liberation of Embryonic Stem Cells

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002019

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Mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells are defined by their capacity to self-renew and their ability to differentiate into all adult tissues including the germ line. Along with efficient clonal propagation, these properties have made them an unparalleled tool for manipulation of the mouse genome. Traditionally, mouse ES (mES) cells have been isolated and cultured in complex, poorly defined conditions that only permit efficient derivation from the 129 mouse strain; genuine ES cells have not been isolated from another species in these conditions. Recently, use of small molecule inhibitors of glycogen synthase kinase 3 (Gsk3) and the Fgf-MAPK signaling cascade has permitted efficient derivation of ES cells from all tested mouse strains. Subsequently, the first verified ES cells were established from a non-mouse species, Rattus norvegicus. Here, we summarize the advances in our understanding of the signaling pathways regulating mES cell self-renewal that led to the first derivation of rat ES cells and highlight the new opportunities presented for transgenic modeling on diverse genetic backgrounds. We also comment on the implications of this work for our understanding of pluripotent stem cells across mammalian species.


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