Exploring the Plasticity of Cellular Fate Using Defined-Factor Reprogramming

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Exploring the Plasticity of Cellular Fate Using Defined-Factor Reprogramming

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Title: Exploring the Plasticity of Cellular Fate Using Defined-Factor Reprogramming
Author: Son, Yesde
Citation: Son, Yesde. 2012. Exploring the Plasticity of Cellular Fate Using Defined-Factor Reprogramming. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Cellular fate, once established, is usually stable for the lifetime of the cell. However, the mechanisms that restrict the developmental potential of differentiated cells are in principle reversible, as demonstrated by the success of animal cloning from a somatic genome through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). An increased understanding of the molecular determinants of cell fate has also enabled the reprogramming of cell fate using defined transcription factors; recently, these efforts have culminated in the discovery of four genes that convert somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which resemble embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and can give rise to all the cell types in the body. As a first step toward generating clinically useful iPSCs, we identified a small molecule, RepSox, that potently and simultaneously replaces two of the four exogenous reprogramming factors, Sox2 and cMyc. This activity was mediated by the inhibition of the Transforming Growth Factor-\(\beta\) \((Tgf-\beta)\) signaling pathway in incompletely reprogrammed intermediate cells. By isolating these stable intermediates, we showed that RepSox acts on them to rapidly upregulate the endogenous pluripotency factor, Nanog, allowing full reprogramming to pluripotency in the absence of Sox2. We also explored lineage conversion as an alternative approach for producing a target cell type in a patient-specific manner, without first generating iPSCs. A combination of pro-neural as well as motor neuron-selective factors could convert fibroblasts directly into spinal motor neurons, the cells that control all voluntary movement. The induced motor neurons (iMNs) displayed molecular and functional characteristics of bona fide motor neurons, actuating muscle contraction in vitro and even engrafting in the developing chick spinal cord when transplanted. Importantly, functional iMNs could be produced from fibroblasts of adult patients with the fatal motor neuron disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Given the therapeutic value of generating patient-specific cell types on demand, defined-factor reprogramming is likely to serve as an important tool in regenerative medicine. It is hoped that the different approaches presented here can complement existing technologies to facilitate the study and treatment of intractable human disorders.
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Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:9847380
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