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Teratogens are compounds that can induce birth defects upon exposure of the developing fetus. To date, most teratogen studies utilize pregnant rodents to determine compound teratogenicity in vivo. However, this is a low throughput approach that cannot easily meet the need for comprehensive high-volume teratogen assessment, a goal of the US Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, rodent and human development differ substantially, and therefore the use of assays using relevant human cells has utility. For these reasons, interest has recently focused on the use of human embryonic stem cells for teratogen assessment. Here we present a highly standardized and quantitative system for the detection and analysis of teratogens that utilizes well-characterized and purified highly pluripotent stem cells. We have devised strategies to mass-produce thousands of uniformly sized spheroids of human ESCs (hESCs) that can be caused to undergo synchronous differentiation to yield embryoid bodies (EBs) in the presence and absence of suspected teratogens. The system uses all human cells and rigorously controlled and standardized EB culture conditions. Furthermore, the approach has been made quantitative by using high-content imaging approaches. Our system offers distinct advantages over earlier EB systems that rely heavily on the use on mouse ESCs and EB aggregates of stochastic sizes. Together, our results show that thousands of suspected teratogens could be assessed using human EB-based approaches.


Anthony Flamier, Supriya Singh, Theodore P Rasmussen. A standardized human embryoid body platform for the detection and analysis of teratogens. PloS one. 2017;12(2):e0171101

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PMID: 28182681

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