Difference Between Fetal and Embryonic Stem Cells | Fetal vs Embryonic Stem Cells


The key difference between fetal and embryonic stem cells is that fetal stem cells are comparatively more differentiated whilst embryonic stem cells are less differentiated.

Stem cells are a type of cells with the potential to be differentiated into many forms of cells. They also possess the ability to self renew and produce the same type of stem cells in larger quantities. Therefore, stem cells are the basis of development of an organism. There are many types of stem cells. Major types include fetal stem cells, embryonic stem cells, tissue-specific stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. Fetal and embryonic stem cells occur during the zygote development and they finally develop into a multicellular organism. Moreover, the general function of stem cells includes growth and multiplication to replace damaged or dead cells.

CONTENTS

1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What are Fetal Stem Cells
3. What are Embryonic Stem Cells
4. Similarities Between Fetal and Embryonic Stem Cells
5. Side by Side Comparison – Fetal vs Embryonic Stem Cells in Tabular Form
6. Summary

What are Fetal Stem Cells?

Fetal stem cells are a type of stem cell present in the fetus. These stem cells are differentiated from embryonic stem cells. Hence, these cells are categorized as more differentiated cells than embryonic stem cells. Fetal stem cells possess the ability to divide, proliferate and produce progenitor cells that differentiate into specialized cells. Therefore, fetal stem cells are multipotent. They serve as the progenitor cells of the corresponding three germ layers: ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm. The differentiation of fetal stem cells from the embryonic stem cells occurs during the middle of the differentiation process.

Difference Between Fetal and Embryonic Stem Cells | Fetal vs Embryonic Stem Cells

Figure 01: Fetal stem cells

Fetal stem cells are isolated from fetal blood, bone marrow, and fetal organs including kidney and liver. These stem cells provide an excellent tool for exploring many aspects of cell biology. Moreover, they possess the potential to serve as therapeutic tools for cell transplantation and ex-vivo gene therapy.

What are Embryonic Stem Cells?

Embryonic stem cells are a type of stem cells present in the early stages of embryonic development. During fertilization, a male and a female gamete unite to form a diploid zygote. The zygote undergoes rapid mitotic division to form a hollow ball of cells: the blastocyst. The inner cell mass of the blastocyst is made up of embryonic stem cells.

Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent. Hence they can give rise to many forms of specialized cell types of a multicellular organism. Embryonic stem cells differentiate into the cells in the three germ layers: ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm. Hence, these cells are important and valuable as they provide a renewable resource in the study of therapeutics, drug testing, and normal development and disease.

Difference Between Fetal and Embryonic Stem Cells | Fetal vs Embryonic Stem Cells

Figure 02: Embryonic Stem Cells

In cell culture, the growth of embryonic stem cells is easy. Therefore, laboratory-derived embryonic stem cells could be induced to differentiate into many specialized cell types. These include heart cells, nerve cells, insulin-producing cells, etc.

What are the Similarities Between Fetal and Embryonic Stem Cells?

  • Fetal and embryonic stem cells are two types of stem cells which occur during the development of the zygote into a multicellular organism.
  • Both types of stem cells have the potential to grow, multiply and differentiate into many forms of specialized cells.

What is the Difference Between Fetal and Embryonic Stem Cells?

The key difference between fetal and embryonic stem cells is the potency of differentiation. That is; the fetal stem cells are multipotent while embryonic stem cells are pluripotent. Hence, fetal stem cells are more differentiated than embryonic stem cells. Furthermore, fetal stem cells are present in the fetus while embryonic stem cells are present in the early stages of embryonic development. Therefore, we can consider this also as a difference between fetal and embryonic stem cells.

The below infographic summarizes the difference between fetal and embryonic stem cells.

Difference Between Fetal and Embryonic Stem Cells | Fetal vs Embryonic Stem Cells

Summary – Fetal vs Embryonic Stem Cells

Fetal stem cells are multipotent present in the fetus. These cells are more differentiated than embryonic stem cells. Fetal stem cells also give rise to progenitor cells. On the other hand, embryonic stem cells are present in the inner mass of the blastocyst during embryo development. These cells are pluripotent. Embryonic stem cells also help to develop the three germ layers. Laboratory-derived embryonic stem cells have the potential to be differentiated into many specialized cell types. The degree of differentiation is the key difference between fetal and embryonic stem cells.

Reference:

1. O’Donoghue, K, and N M Fisk. “Fetal Stem Cells.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2004, Available here.
2. “Stem Cells.” A Closer Look at Stem Cells, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Stem cells diagram” By Mike Jones – From English Wikipedia. (CC BY-SA 2.5) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Humanstemcell” By Ryddragyn at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia