We investigated the accuracy of fluorescein diacetate uptake as an indicator of the viability of human fetal cerebral cortical cells. Cortical cells from 16-26-week-old normal fetuses were studied. The cortices were dissociated mechanically with normal saline to make a suspension. Fluorescein diacetate uptake and trypan blue exclusion were compared as methods for examining cell viability. Our results show that fluorescein diacetate uptake is a simple and sensitive method for examining human fetal cortical cell viability.