The achievement of the research team led by Professor Kehkooi Kee was published in the latest issue of the academic journal Nature Communications online: http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15680
The research showed the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells into follicle-like cells can be achieved under the combined action of two RNA-binding proteins specifically expressed in germ cells, DAZL and BOULE,and growth factors GDF9 and BMP15.
Kee, a Malaysian Chinese scientist, said that unlike somatic cells, germ cells can transmit the genetic chromosomes of the father and mother to the next generation. In the genetic process, germ cells undergo unique meiosis and genetic recombination.
How do the germ cells regulate this process? How do they keep the balance between passing the genes to the next generation and creating a diverse genome? "That is the most interesting question for me in this field of study," said Kee.
However, scientists must overcome difficulties in this field of research. Although they can obtain some human germ cell samples by patient agreement, the sample size is far from enough for molecular experiments and cell experiments.
"We needed to build an in-vitro platform to study the various mechanisms during the process of human germ cell development. So we chose human embryonic stem cells to differentiate into germ cells, including sperms and eggs," said Kee.
In 2009, he and his colleagues used human embryonic stem cells to create human primordial germ cells and sperm-like cells for the first time. They published their research in the academic journal Nature.
Although other scientists have conducted similar experiments, none has made human germ cells differentiate into such a mature state.