Although development leads unidirectionally toward more restricted cell fates, recent work in cellular reprogramming has proven that one cellular identity can strikingly convert into another, promising countless applications in biomedical research and paving the way for modeling diseases with patient-derived stem cells. To date, there has been little discussion of which disease models are likely to be most informative. Here, we review evidence demonstrating that, because environmental influences and epigenetic signatures are largely erased during reprogramming, patient-specific models of diseases with strong genetic bases and high penetrance are likely to prove most informative in the near term. We also discuss the implications of the new reprogramming paradigm in biomedicine and outline how reprogramming of cell identities is enhancing our understanding of cell differentiation and prospects for cellular therapies and in vivo regeneration.
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