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Robust protocol for feeder-free adaptation of cryopreserved human pluripotent stem cells


Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) are conventionally maintained on mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) feeder layers. However, downstream applications, such as directed differentiation protocols, are primarily optimized for feeder-free cultures. Therefore, hPSCs must often be adapted to feeder-free conditions. Here we propose a novel feeder-free adaptation protocol using StemFlex medium, which can be directly applied to thawed hPSC lines.

The direct feeder-free adaptation protocol using StemFlex culture medium on Geltrex coating led to robust hPSC cultures in approximately 2 weeks. This approach was tested with three human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines. All lines were confirmed to be pluripotent, expressing POU5F1, SOX2, and NANOG. No chromosomal imbalances were induced by the feeder-free adaptation.

StemFlex medium enabled the efficient adaptation of hPSCs to feeder-free conditions directly after thawing. This protocol is easy to implement in laboratories that perform feeder-free cultures, allowing more convenient adaptation and more robust expansion of cryopreserved hPSCs, even in cases when sample quality is low or unknown.

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We would like to thank Björn Menten (Center for Medical Genetics, Ghent University) for his invaluable practical expertise and assistance in the chromosomal analysis experiments of the present study.


B.H. and this research are supported by a Ghent University grant, Faculty Health and Medical Sciences; a research grant from Research Foundation—Flanders (FWO) (FWO/KAN/ 1507816N), the Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (IWT, Project Number 150042) and by the Strategic Basic Research programme (SBO, Project Number B/14743/01). M.P. is supported by the Ghent University Special Research Fund (BOF01D08114). J.v.H. and her research are supported by the Special Research Fund of the Ghent University (BOF/STA 2016000401).

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Correspondence to Jolanda van Hengel.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Editor: Tetsuji Okamoto

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Aalders, J., Van den Vreken, N., Popovic, M. et al. Robust protocol for feeder-free adaptation of cryopreserved human pluripotent stem cells. In Vitro Cell.Dev.Biol.-Animal 55, 777–783 (2019).

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  • Human stem cells
  • Feeder cell layer
  • Cell culture techniques
  • Pluripotency
  • Cryopreserved stem cells
  • Feeder-free adaptation