From the March 2011 Issue of Stem Cells
Paper Commentary by Stuart P. Atkinson
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) have the potential to provide a patient specific source of cells that can be used in cellular therapy. However doubts about their similarity to embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have arisen, both at the gene expression and epigenetic level, and also with their initial differentiation capabilities and the capacity of the differentiated cells to function properly. So what other potential sources do we have? Currently derived human ESC lines (hESC) may not have the genetic diversity required, whilst derivation of additional hESC lines has associated ethical (and funding) problems. Meanwhile, hESC-derivation from somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) has yet to yield results and does not look likely to in the short term. For many, iPSCs still represent the future of stem cell research and stem cell derivation. However, another source of pluripotent cells which are often overlooked may be available, in the form of parthenogenetic stem cells. Parthenogenetic ESCs are derived from activated oocytes at the metaphase II stage and could provide a patient specific source of ESCs for the donor female, and perhaps relatives of the said donor (Hikichi et al. and Kim et al.). However donated oocytes at this stage of development are generally used in assisted reproduction and are therefore of scarce availability, a problem also associated with SCNT. However, Josef Fulka Jr’s group at the Institute of Animal Science, Pratelstvi, Prague have now demonstrated a new method of creating parthenogenetic ESCs from metaphase I oocytes, which are often discarded during the course of IVF, by using Butyrolactone I (BL1). This study (Fulka et al.) is presented in the March Edition of Stem Cells.