Embryonic stem (ES) cell lines derived from human blastocysts have the developmental potential to form derivatives of all three embryonic germ layers even after prolonged culture. Here we describe the clonal derivation of two human ES cell lines, H9.1 and H9.2. At the time of the clonal derivation of the H9.1 and H9.2 ES cell lines, the parental ES cell line, H9, had already been continuously cultured for 6 months. After an additional 8 months of culture, H9.1 and H9.2 ES cell lines continued to: (1) actively proliferate, (2) express high levels of telomerase, and (3) retain normal karyotypes. Telomere lengths, while somewhat variable, were maintained between 8 and 12 kb in high-passage H9.1 and H9.2 cells. High-passage H9.1 and H9.2 cells both formed teratomas in SCID-beige mice that included differentiated derivatives of all three embryonic germ layers. These results demonstrate the pluripotency of single human ES cells, the maintenance of pluripotency during an extended period of culture, and the long-term self-renewing properties of cultured human ES cells. The remarkable developmental potential, proliferative capacity, and karyotypic stability of human ES cells distinguish them from adult cells. Copyright 2000 Academic Press.