During development, cells transition from a pluripotent to a differentiated state, generating all the different types of cells in the body. Development is generally considered an irreversible process, meaning that a differentiated cell is thought to be unable to return to the pluripotent state. However, it is now possible to reprogram mature cells to pluripotency. It is generally thought that reprogramming is accomplished by reversing the natural developmental differentiation process, suggesting that the two mechanisms are closely related. Therefore, a detailed study of cell reprogramming has the potential to shed light on unexplained developmental mechanisms and, conversely, a better understanding of developmental differentiation can help improve cell reprogramming. However, fundamental differences between reprogramming processes and multi-lineage specification during early embryonic development have also been uncovered. In addition, there are multiple routes by which differentiated cells can re-enter the pluripotent state. In this Review, we discuss the connections and disparities between differentiation and reprogramming, and assess the degree to which reprogramming can be considered as a simple reversal of development.
Keywords: Development; Reprogramming; Stem cell; iPSC.
© 2015. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.