The generation of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells begins with the induction of pluripotency in vitro. It has been discovered that cells that form the edges of primate pluripotent stem cell colonies have a unique role in this process and have been termed pluripotent founder cells. Pluripotent founder cells are NCAD+ and have been shown to initiate and establish pluripotency in culture. There are similarities between pluripotent founder cells and primitive endoderm in the primate embryo. Pluripotent founder cells were not present in mouse pluripotent stem cell colonies. Human pluripotent founder cells (hPFCs) can be regulated by non-canonical Wnt signaling. Research findings on hPFCs have applications in understanding differences between how mice and humans respond to stem cell drugs and also in understanding how an individual cell becomes cancerous.
The hPFC discovery reported in Cell was lead by Dr. Mick Bhatia at McMaster University. The group worked with colleagues at Harvard University and Australia to create a repository of data about these founder cells accessible to scientists worldwide. Thousands of individual founder cells were analyzed to create a database of their similarities and differences.