In vitro systems of cellular reprogramming [induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells and direct reprogramming or transdifferentiation] are rapidly improving our repertoire of molecular techniques that can force cells in culture to change into a desired identity. However, the new frontier for regenerative medicine is in vivo cellular reprogramming, which in light of concerns about the safety of in vitro cell manipulations, is an increasingly attractive approach for regenerative medicine. Powerful in vivo approaches are currently being undertaken in the genetic model Caenorhabditis elegans. Several very distinct cell types have been induced to change or have been discovered to transform naturally, into altogether different cell types. These examples have improved our understanding of the fundamental molecular and cellular mechanisms that permit cell identity changes in live animals. In addition, the combination of a stereotyped lineage with single cell analyses allows dissection of the early and intermediate mechanisms of reprogramming, as well as their kinetics. As a result, several important concepts on in vivo cellular reprogramming have been recently developed.
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