Frontiers of Medicine

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 152–165 | Cite as

Chemical transdifferentiation: closer to regenerative medicine

  • Aining Xu
  • Lin ChengEmail author


Cell transdifferentiation, which directly switches one type of differentiated cells into another cell type, is more advantageous than cell reprogramming to generate pluripotent cells and differentiate them into functional cells. This process is crucial in regenerative medicine. However, the cell-converting strategies, which mainly depend on the virus-mediated expression of exogenous genes, have clinical safety concerns. Small molecules with compelling advantages are a potential alternative in manipulating cell fate conversion. In this review, we briefly retrospect the nature of cell transdifferentiation and summarize the current developments in the research of small molecules in promoting cell conversion. Particularly, we focus on the complete chemical compound-induced cell transdifferentiation, which is closer to the clinical translation in cell therapy. Despite these achievements, the mechanisms underpinning chemical transdifferentiation remain largely unknown. More importantly, identifying drugs that induce resident cell conversion in vivo to repair damaged tissue remains to be the end-goal in current regenerative medicine.


cell therapy cell transdifferentiation chemical compounds small molecules tissue regeneration 


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© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Medical Genomics, Shanghai Institute of HematologyRuijin Hospital Affiliated to Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of MedicineShanghaiChina

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