Human diseases such as heart failure, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, and many others result from the deficiency or dysfunction of critical cell types. Strategies for therapeutic tissue repair or regeneration require the in vitro manufacture of clinically relevant quantities of defined cell types. In addition to transplantation therapy, the generation of otherwise inaccessible cells also permits disease modeling, toxicology testing and drug discovery in vitro. In this review, we discuss current strategies to manipulate the identity of abundant and accessible cells by differentiation from an induced pluripotent state or direct conversion between differentiated states. We contrast these approaches with recent advances employing partial reprogramming to facilitate lineage switching, and discuss the mechanisms underlying the engineering of cell fate. Finally, we address the current limitations of the field and how the resulting cell types can be assessed to ensure the production of medically relevant populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-48
Number of pages16
JournalCell Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • Direct fate conversion
  • Directed differentiation
  • Reprogramming


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