embryonic stem cell lines. This finally brought the wondrous potential of stem cell research to the fieldof human treatment. In a remarkably short paper (3 pages), Thompson et. al. described the first processused to isolate 5 different human embryonic stem cell lines. The stem cells came from the excess frozenembryos from 5 out of 14 different cases at in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics. The embryos wereobtained from individuals after informed consent and approval by an institutional review board to giveaway their excess embryos to scientific research. These donors had sought IVF treatment to solve theirfertility problems which required the artificial production of embryos for later implantation. Eggs fromthe mother, oocytes, were artificially fertilized using sperm from the father.
Multiple copies of thesefertilized embryos were created because IVF often fails on the first few attempts.
The process of creating an embryonic stem cell line starts with preparations for IVF. Once anegg is fertilized, it is placed into a Petri dish with a certain growth fluid to provide the cells the propernutrients to grow. This cell is then allowed to grow and duplicate multiple times for about 5-7 days untilit reaches the blastocyst stage.
The blastocyst at this point is small, on average about 0.194mm indiameter.
To put this into perspective, a very common diameter of mechanical pencil lead is 0.7mm.This means that about 13 blastocysts could fit on the tip of a mechanical pencil. This is the point inwhich embryos are normally frozen and stored for potential IVF treatment. During a normal (non-IVF)pregnancy, the blastocyst would not yet have implanted in the uterine wall of the female, leaving a highlikelihood of miscarriage. In fact, around 50% of all pregnancies miscarry before implantation.
Researchers can now legally acquire the excess embryos from the IVF clinic and continue onwith the protocol to create an embryonic stem cell line.
In order to do this, the researcher must isolatethe inner cell mass, the grouping of cells that holds the true stem cell potential useful for research. Theyadd a series of solutions to the blastocyst in order to slowly peel off the outer layers of non-pluripotentcells, leaving behind an intact inner cell mass.
This is even smaller than a blastocyst on average about.075mm in diameter.
This translates to about 85 inner cell masses on the tip of that mechanical pencil.