Embryonic stem (ES) cells are derived from blastocysts. They can differentiate into the three embryonic germ layers and essentially any type of somatic cells. They therefore hold great potential in tissue regeneration therapy. The ethical issues associated with the use of human embryonic stem cells are resolved by the technical break-through of generating induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from various types of somatic cells. However, how ES and iPS cells self-renew and maintain their pluripotency is still largely unknown in spite of the great progress that has been made in the last two decades. Integrative genome-wide approaches, such as the gene expression microarray, chromatin immunoprecipitation based microarray (ChIP-chip) and chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by massive parallel sequencing (ChIP-seq) offer unprecedented opportunities to elucidate the mechanism of the pluripotency, reprogramming and DNA damage response of ES and iPS cells. This frontier article summarizes the fundamental biological questions about ES and iPS cells and reviews the recent advances in ES and iPS cell research using genome-wide technologies. To this end, we offer our perspectives on the future of genome-wide studies on stem cells.
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