The Human Embryonic Stem Cells Transcriptome: How Much Do We Know?


The establishment of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines in 1998 served to set the pace for understanding the molecular biology behind the two hallmark features of stem cells: self renewal and pluripotency. The excitement was generated in the hope that understanding the molecular biology of hESCs would provide a good model for studying early human development, disease and drug discovery and also hold the promise for providing a cure for degenerative human diseases. In spite of the large number of studies, the molecular basis of pluripotency has remained a matter of intrigue ever since the embryonic stem cells (ESCs) were first identified. A considerable percentage of these studies have been transcriptome-based. Interestingly, significant differences are seen not only between mouse and human ESC transcriptomes but also amongst the hESC studies. Nevertheless, a key set of pluripotency genes seem to be common, reinforcing the utility of transcriptome-based approaches in identifying the molecular basis of pluripotency in hESCs.