Cell Transplant 2012 9;21(1):217-34. Epub 2011 Jun 9.
International Stem Cell Corporation, Oceanside, CA, USA.
Human parthenogenetic stem cells (hpSCs) are pluripotent stem cells with enormous potential as cell sources for cell-based therapies: hpSCs may have histocompatibilty advantages over human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and derivation of hpSCs does not require viable blastocyst destruction. For translation of all pluripotent stem cell-based therapies, derivation of differentiated cell products that are not contaminated with undifferentiated cells is a major technical roadblock. We report here a novel method to derive high-purity definitive endoderm (DE) from hpSCs, based on reproducing features of the normal human embryonic microenvironment. The method mimics the developmental process of transition through a primitive streak, using a differentiation device that incorporates a three-dimensional extracellular matrix (ECM) combined with a porous membrane. Treatment of undifferentiated hpSCs above the membrane results an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT); thus, responsive cells acquire the ability to migrate through the membrane into the ECM, where they differentiate into DE. Importantly, the resultant DE is highly purified, and is not contaminated by undifferentiated cells, as assessed by OCT4 expression using immunocytochemistry and flow cytometry. The functional properties of the DE are also preserved by the process: DE differentiated in the device can generate a highly enriched population of hepatocyte-like cells (HLCs) characterized by expression of hepatic lineage markers, indocyanine green clearance, glycogen storage, cytochrome P450 activity, and engraftment in the liver after transplantation into immunodeficient mice. The method is broadly applicable and we obtained purified DE using hESCs, as well as several hpSC lines. The novel method described here represents a significant step toward the efficient generation of high-purity cells derived from DE, including hepatocytes and pancreatic endocrine cells, for use in regenerative medicine and drug discovery, as well as a platform for studying cell fate specification and behavior during development.