The Molecular Mechanism of Induced Pluripotency: A Two-Stage Switch
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- Scheper, W. & Copray, S. Stem Cell Rev and Rep (2009) 5: 204. doi:10.1007/s12015-009-9077-x
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Pluripotent stem cells are basic cells with an indefinite self-renewal capacity and the potential to generate all the cell types of the three germinal layers. So far, the major source for pluripotent stem cells is the inner cell mass of the blastocysts: embryonic stem (ES) cells. Potential clinical application of ES cells is faced with many practical and ethical concerns. So, a major breakthrough was achieved in 2006, when it was shown that pluripotent stem cells could be obtained by transducing mouse embryonic and adult fibroblasts with a limited set of defined transcription factors. These reprogrammed cells, named induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, resembled ES cells in many of their characteristics. Since this initial study, iPS cell research has taken an incredible flight, and to date iPS cells have been generated from cells from several species using different sets of reprogramming factors. Given the potential to generate patient-specific cell populations without the need for human embryonic cells, iPS cell technology has been received with great excitement by research and medical communities. However, many questions regarding the actual molecular process of induced reprogramming remain unanswered and need to be addressed before iPS cells can go to the clinic. In this review, we start by summarizing recent advances in iPS cell research and inventory the hurdles that still need to be taken before safe clinical application. Our major aim, however, is to review the available data on the molecular processes underlying pluripotency reprogramming and present a two-stage switch model.