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Keywords:

  • directed differentiation;
  • reprogramming;
  • cellular replacement;
  • corticospinal motor neurons

Abstract

Recent discoveries in nuclear reprogramming have challenged the dogma that the identity of terminally differentiated cells cannot be changed. The identification of molecular mechanisms that reprogram differentiated cells to a new identity carries profound implications for regenerative medicine across organ systems. The central nervous system (CNS) has historically been considered to be largely immutable. However, recent studies indicate that even the adult CNS is imparted with the potential to change under the appropriate stimuli. Here, we review current knowledge regarding the capability of distinct cells within the CNS to reprogram their identity and consider the role of developmental signals in directing these cell fate decisions. Finally, we discuss the progress and current challenges of using developmental signals to precisely direct the generation of individual neuronal subtypes in the postnatal CNS and in the dish. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol 72: 1085–1098, 2012