Classic experiments such as somatic cell nuclear transfer into oocytes and cell fusion demonstrated that differentiated cells are not irreversibly committed to their fate. More recent work has built on these conclusions and discovered defined factors that directly induce one specific cell type from another, which may be as distantly related as cells from different germ layers. This suggests the possibility that any specific cell type may be directly converted into any other if the appropriate reprogramming factors are known. Direct lineage conversion could provide important new sources of human cells for modeling disease processes or for cellular-replacement therapies. For future applications, it will be critical to carefully determine the fidelity of reprogramming and to develop methods for robustly and efficiently generating human cell types of interest.