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Stem Cells International
Volume 2017, Article ID 2451927, 18 pages
Research Article

Effects of Aminoglycoside Antibiotics on Human Embryonic Stem Cell Viability during Differentiation In Vitro

1Department of Biochemistry, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, UAE University, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, UAE
2Department of Anatomy, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, UAE University, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Correspondence should be addressed to Suraiya A. Ansari;

Received 6 April 2017; Revised 30 July 2017; Accepted 29 August 2017; Published 24 September 2017

Academic Editor: Heinrich Sauer

Copyright © 2017 Divya S. Varghese et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are being used extensively in array of studies to understand different mechanisms such as early human embryogenesis, drug toxicity testing, disease modeling, and cell replacement therapy. The protocols for the directed differentiation of hESCs towards specific cell types often require long-term cell cultures. To avoid bacterial contamination, these protocols include addition of antibiotics such as pen-strep and gentamicin. Although aminoglycosides, streptomycin, and gentamicin have been shown to cause cytotoxicity in various animal models, the effect of these antibiotics on hESCs is not clear. In this study, we found that antibiotics, pen-strep, and gentamicin did not affect hESC cell viability or expression of pluripotency markers. However, during directed differentiation towards neural and hepatic fate, significant cell death was noted through the activation of caspase cascade. Also, the expression of neural progenitor markers Pax6, Emx2, Otx2, and Pou3f2 was significantly reduced suggesting that gentamicin may adversely affect early embryonic neurogenesis whereas no effect was seen on the expression of endoderm or hepatic markers during differentiation. Our results suggest that the use of antibiotics in cell culture media for the maintenance and differentiation of hESCs needs thorough investigation before use to avoid erroneous results.