Adult stem cells have been previously isolated from a variety of somatic tissues, including bone marrow and the central nervous system; however, contribution of these cells to the germ line has not been shown. Here we demonstrate that fetal somatic explants contain a subpopulation of somatic stem cells (FSSCs), which can be induced to display features of lineage-uncommitted stem cells. After injection into blastocysts, these cells give rise to a variety of cell types in the resultant chimeric fetuses, including those of the mesodermal lineage; they even migrate into the genital ridge. In vitro, FSSCs exhibit characteristics of embryonic stem cells, including extended self-renewal; expression of stem cell marker genes, such as Pou5f1 (Oct4), Stat3, and Akp2 (Tnap) and growth as multicellular aggregates. We report that fetal tissue contains somatic stem cells with greater potency than previously thought, which might form a new source of stem cells useful in somatic nuclear transfer and cell therapy.
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