Mammalian primordial germ cells (PGCs) are specified in the early post-implantation embryo. Attempts have been made to establish in vitro PGC development since the derivation of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) from blastocysts. Despite the advances made with mouse models, similar studies in human germ cell development have not progressed because practical and ethical reasons prevent the use of early human embryos. Recently, we and others developed a robust in vitro system for producing human primordial germ cell-like cells (hPGCLCs) from ESCs and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) by inducing competency for germ cells. Strikingly, the molecular mechanism for germline differentiation is not fully conserved between mouse and human, probably because of the differences in their early embryogenesis and regulation of the pluripotent state. Here, we present a review of the current status in the field of in vitro germ cell production from pluripotent stem cells, and discuss how its usefulness could be extended to clinical applications.
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