Cellular differentiation processes during normal embryonic development are guided by extracellular soluble factors such as morphogen gradients and cell contact signals, eventually resulting in induction of specific combinations of lineage-determining transcription factors. The young field of epigenetic reprogramming takes advantage of this knowledge and uses cell fate determination factors to convert one lineage into another such as the conversion of fibroblasts into pluripotent stem cells or neurons. These induced cell fate conversions open up new avenues for studying disease processes, generating cell material for therapeutic intervention such as drug screening and potentially also for cell-based therapies. However, there are still limitations that have to be overcome to fulfill these promises, centering on reprogramming efficiencies, cell identity, and maturation. In this review, we discuss the discovery of induced neuronal reprogramming, ways to improve the conversion process, and finally how to define properly the identity of those converted neuronal cells.
Keywords: cell fate; epigenetic reprogramming; neuronal reprogramming; pluripotency.
© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.