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Concise Review: Embryonic Stem Cells Derived by Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer: A Horse in the Race?

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Embryonic stem cells (ESC) hold promise for the treatment of human medical conditions but are allogeneic. Here, we consider the differences between autologous pluripotent stem cells produced by nuclear transfer (NT-ESCs) and transcription factor-mediated, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that impact the desirability of each of these cell types for clinical use. The derivation of NT-ESCs is more cumbersome and requires donor oocytes; however, the use of oocyte cytoplasm as the source of reprogramming factors is linked to a key advantage of NT-ESCs-the ability to replace mutant mitochondrial DNA in a patient cell (due to either age or inherited disease) with healthy donor mitochondria from an oocyte. Moreover, in epigenomic and transcriptomic comparisons between isogenic iPSCs and NT-ESCs, the latter produced cells that more closely resemble bona fide ESCs derived from fertilized embryos. Thus, although NT-ESCs are more difficult to generate than iPSCs, the ability of somatic cell nuclear transfer to replace aged or diseased mitochondria and the closer epigenomic and transcriptomic similarity between NT-ESCs and bona fide ESCs may make NT-ESCs superior for future applications in regenerative medicine. Stem Cells 2017;35:26-34.

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