The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 54: 991 - 1002 (2010)

Vol 54, Issue 6-7

Special Issue: Developmental Hematopoiesis

Dissecting hematopoietic differentiation using the embryonic stem cell differentiation model

Published: 17 July 2010

Tara L. Huber*

Stem Cell and Developmental Biology Department, Genome Institute of Singapore, Singapore


Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have been successfully used to study the generation of the hematopoietic lineage. The ESC differentiation model provides access to distinct developmental stages during hematopoietic differentiation enabling us to study developmental transitions in a manner that is difficult to do with embryos. The identification of the bipotential hemangioblast/blast-colony forming cell (BL-CFC) which represents the earliest stage of hematopoietic commitment in ESC cultures has enabled the study of signalling pathways, transcription factors and enzymes at the level of this developmental stage. Reporter ESC lines, flow cytometry and serum-free culture reagents are helping the field to transition from serum-containing protocols to step-wise serum-free differentiation strategies that attempt to mimic the developmental processes in the embryo. This serves as a framework with which to approach directed differentiation of human ESCs for the purposes of regenerative medicine. This review is focused on the contributions that the ESC differentiation system has made to understanding hematopoiesis and will highlight the strengths of this model of development and the challenges it still faces.


embryonic stem cell, hemangioblast, hemogenic endothelium, differentiation, hematopoiesis

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