For much of the last century, the differentiated state that characterizes the many cell types of an adult organism was thought to be stable and abrogated only in rare instances by transdifferentiation, metaplasia or cancer. This stability was thought to reside in the autoregulatory molecular circuitry that exists between the cytoplasm and the nucleus, a status quo that could be disrupted during somatic cell nuclear transfer, to reprogramme cells to a pluripotent state. Pioneering work in the 1980s showed that transdifferentiation of cell lineages could be induced by the addition of transcription factors. However, these conversions were usually confined to cell types from the same germ layer, and proof of conversion was difficult to obtain. This deficiency has now been overturned by demonstrations that exogenously added transcription factors can convert differentiated cell types into embryonic‐like induced pluripotent stem cells. Here, we highlight the recent progress, and the implications of this work for our understanding of the relationship between the pluripotent and more differentiated cell states.
- Received March 25, 2009.
- Accepted May 25, 2009.
- Copyright © 2009 European Molecular Biology Organization