1964: Lewis Kleinsmith and G. Barry Pierce Jr. isolated a single type of cell from a teratocarcinoma, a tumor now known to be derived from a germ cell. These cells isolated from the teratocarcinoma replicated and grew in cell culture as a stem cell and are now known as embryonal carcinoma (EC) cells. Although similarities in morphology and differentiating potential (pluripotency) led to the use of EC cells as the in vitro model for early mouse development, EC cells harbor genetic mutations and often abnormal karyotypes that accumulated during the development of the teratocarcinoma. These genetic aberrations further emphasized the need to be able to culture pluripotent cells directly from the inner cell mass.
Martin Evans revealed a new technique for culturing the mouse embryos in the uterus to allow for the derivation of ES cells from these embryos.
1981: Embryonic stem cells (ES cells) were independently first derived from mouse embryos by two groups. Martin Evans and Matthew Kaufman from the Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge published first in July, revealing a new technique for culturing the mouse embryos in the uterus to allow for an increase in cell number, allowing for the derivation of ES cells from these embryos.Gail R. Martin, from the Department of Anatomy, University of California, San Francisco, published her paper in December and coined the term “Embryonic Stem Cell”. She showed that embryos could be cultured in vitro and that ES cells could be derived from these embryos.
1989: Mario R. Cappechi, Martin J. Evans, and Oliver Smithies publish their research which details their isolation and genetic modifications of embryonic stem cells, creating the first "knockout mice". In creating knockout mice, this publication provided scientists with an entirely new way to study disease.
1998: A paper titled "Embryonic Stem Cell Lines Derived From Human Blastocysts" is published by a team from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The researchers behind this study not only create the first embryonic stem cells, but recognize their pluripotency, as well as their capacity for self-renewal. The abstract of the paper notes the significance of the discovery with regards to the fields of developmental biology and drug discovery.
2001: President George W. Bush allows federal funding to support research on roughly 60—at this time, already existing—lines of embryonic stem cells. Seeing as the limited lines that Bush allowed research on had already been established, this law supported embryonic stem cell research without raising any ethical questions that could arise with the creation of new lines under federal budget.
2006: Japanese scientists Shinya Yamanaka and Kazutoshi Takashi publish a paper describing the induction of pluripotent stem cells from cultures of adult mouse fibroblasts. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are a huge discovery, as they are seemingly identical to embryonic stem cells and could be used without sparking the same moral controversy.
January, 2009: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides approval for Geron Corporation's phase I trial of their human embryonic stem cell-derived treatment for spinal cord injuries. The announcement was met with excitement from the scientific community, but also with wariness from stem cell opposers. The treatment cells were, however, derived from the cell lines approved under George W. Bush's ESC policy.
March, 2009: Executive Order 13505 is signed by President Barack Obama, removing the restrictions put in place on federal funding for human stem cells by the previous presidential administration. This would allow the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide funding for hESC research. The document also states that the NIH must provide revised federal funding guidelines within 120 days of the order's signing.