Chapter

Nuclear Reprogramming and Stem Cells

Part of the series Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine pp 277-278

Date:

Epilogue

  • Takashi TadaAffiliated withStem Cell Engineering, Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences, Kyoto University Email author 
  • , Justin AinscoughAffiliated withDivision of Cardiovascular and Neuronal Remodeling, Leeds Institute of Genetics, Health and Therapeutics, University of Leeds
  • , Shinya YamanakaAffiliated withCentre for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA), Kyoto University

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Abstract

Recent fascinating developments in the interwoven areas of molecular biology, biochemistry, and biomedicine are starting to provide explanations for many complicated “phenomena,” enabling them to be broken down into more readily understandable pockets of information that can be defined using words such as “molecules” and “factors”. Conversion of phenomenon into molecules and factors is a key initial step for facilitating the feedback of significant research findings to the general population. Importantly, the conversion process is also an essential prerequisite to translating basic research findings into “bench to bedside” applications. The time is now upon us where the once mysterious phenomenon of nuclear reprogramming, first demonstrated over half a century ago using elegant nuclear transfer techniques, is being broken down and understood; translated into molecules and factors. Key molecules involved in the reprogramming process are Oct4, Sox2 and Klf4. We were very surprised indeed to find that this simple cocktail of transcription factors is all that is needed to jump start the process of direct conversion of a somatic cell into a pluripotent stem cell; in essence to revert the process of differentiation and change a cell that had a specific function into one with a renewed ability to become multifunctional. Because of the manner in which they are generated these new types of cells are now commonly referred to as “induced pluripotent stem” (iPS) cells. In the short time since iPS cells were first generated it has become increasingly clear that a new avenue has been opened, providing a glimmer of hope that some, perhaps most, diseases may one day be curable, using genetically identical pluripotent stem cells that have been differentiated into “healthy” cell types of multiple different tissues ready for direct clinical application.