Human pluripotent stem cells harbor the capacity to differentiate into cells from the three embryonic germ layers, and this ability grants them a central role in modeling human disorders and in the field of regenerative medicine. Here, we review pluripotency in human cells with respect to four different aspects: (1) embryonic development, (2) transcriptomes of pluripotent cell stages, (3) genes and pathways that reprogram somatic cells into pluripotent stem cells, and finally (4) the recent identification of the human pluripotent stem cell essentialome. These four aspects of pluripotency collectively culminate in a broader understanding of what makes a cell pluripotent.
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