Initially described in the pioneering work of Yamanaka and colleagues, the ability to "reprogram" differentiated somatic cells into a pluripotent embryonic stem cell-like state by retroviral mediated expression of four specific transcription factors has revolutionized our ability to develop new models to study human disease and represents a significant step toward patient-specific replacement therapies.
What can I do with iPSCs?
In addition to solving ethical concerns related to the use of blastocyst-derived embryonic stem cells, the use of iPSCs for the generation of therapeutic cells for cell replacement therapy may avoid the requirement for post-transplant immune suppression because iPSCs can be generated directly from the transplant recipient and will therefore be genetically identical to the patient. Additionally, because it is possible to reprogram somatic cells derived from diseased individuals, iPSC technology provides an important new platform for the development of new models of human disease. Thus, upon appropriate differentiation, these cells can then be used to study normal and pathologic human tissue development in vitro, enabling new insights into disease pathology as well as the development of novel therapeutic agents and patient-specific cell replacement therapies.