Human pluripotent stem cells can in principle differentiate into any somatic cell type, but mature functional cells have been generated in only a few instances. Thymic epithelial cells (TECs) are of substantial interest for many applications: they are required for T-cell development and are therefore important both for immune function and for establishing self-tolerance. Parent et al. achieved directed differentiation of human embryonic stem cells into thymic epithelial progenitors by mimicking in vitro the signals operative during in vivo thymus development. Upon implantation under the kidney capsule of athymic nude mice, these cells matured further into TECs and supported the development of functional mouse T cells.
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Functional thymic progenitors from stem cells. Nat Methods 10, 607 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmeth.2538