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Keywords:

  • embryonic stem cells;
  • induced pluripotent stem cells;
  • disease in a dish;
  • transdifferentiation;
  • direct reprogramming

Abstract

In 2006, Yamanaka's group announced they had discovered the proverbial “fountain of youth” for human cells, forever changing the field of stem cell research. After misexpressing within them a cocktail of four genes, adult somatic cells revert into an embryonic stem cell (ESC)-like state. These so-called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) can differentiate into a wide variety of cell types, seemingly bypassing the need for politically charged ESCs. However, iPSCs differ from ESCs in potentially deleterious ways, precluding their use in regenerative medicine. In this primer and adjoining discussion with iPSC biologists William Lowry, PhD, and Clive Svendsen, PhD, we explore these issues as well how iPSCs promise to contribute to the understanding of developmental biology and the etiology, and treatment, of human diseases. Developmental Dynamics 240:2034–2041, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.