The Stem Cell State

Gary Ralph Hime, Helen Elizabeth Abud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleOther


The molecular and phenotypic irreversibility of mammalian cell differentiation was a fundamental principle of developmental biology at least until the 1980s, despite numerous reports dating back to the 1950s of the induction of pluripotency in amphibian cells by nuclear transfer (NT). Landmark reports in the 1980s and 1990s in sheep progressively challenged this dogmatic assumption; firstly, embryonic development of reconstructed embryos comprising whole (donor) blastomeres fused to enucleated oocytes, and famously, the cloning of Dolly from a terminally differentiated cell. Thus, the intrinsic ability of oocyte-derived factors to reverse the differentiated phenotype was confirmed. The concomitant elucidation of methods for human embryonic stem cell isolation and cultivation presented opportunities for therapeutic cell replacement strategies, particularly through NT of patient nuclei to enucleated oocytes for subsequent isolation of patient-specific (autologous), pluripotent cells from the resulting blastocysts. Associated logistical limitations of working with human oocytes, in addition to ethical and moral objections prompted exploration of alternative approaches to generate autologous stem cells for therapy, utilizing the full repertoire of factors characteristic of pluripotency, primarily through cell fusion and use of pluripotent cell extracts. Stunningly, in 2006, Japanese scientists described somatic cell reprogramming through delivery of four key factors (identified through a deductive approach from 24 candidate genes). Although less efficient than previous approaches, much of current stem cell research adopts this focused approach to cell reprogramming and (autologous) cell therapy. This chapter is a quasi-historical commentary of the various aforementioned approaches for the induction of pluripotency in lineage-committed cells, and introduces transcriptional and epigenetic changes occurring during reprogramming.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 4
Number of pages4
JournalAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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