Understanding Mammalian Germ Line Development with In Vitro Models

Martinez-Arroyo, A M, Miguez-Forjan, J M, Remohi, J, Pellicer, A, Medrano, J V,
Stem Cells Dev. 15-Sep. 2015 doi: 10.1089/scd.2015.0060


Germ line development is crucial in organisms with sexual reproduction to complete their life cycle. In mammals, knowledge about germ line development is based mainly on the mouse model, in which genetic and epigenetic events are well described. However, little is known about how germ line development is orchestrated in humans, especially in the earliest stages. New findings derived from human in vitro models to obtain germ cells can shed light on these questions. This comprehensive review summarizes the current knowledge about mammalian germ line development, emphasizing the state of the art obtained from in vitro models for germ cell-like cell derivation. Current knowledge of the pluripotency cycle and germ cell specification has allowed different in vitro strategies to obtain germ cells with proven functionality in mouse models. Several reports during the last 10 years show that in vitro germ cell derivation with proven functionality to generate a healthy offspring is possible in mice. However, differences in the embryo development and pluripotency potential between human and mouse make it difficult to extrapolate these results. Further efforts on both human and mouse in vitro models to obtain germ cells from pluripotent stem cells may help to elucidate how human physiological events take place; therefore, therapeutic strategies can also be considered.