Somatic cell nuclear transfer or therapeutic cloning has provided great hope for stem cell-based therapies. However, therapeutic cloning has been experiencing both ethical and technical difficulties. Recent breakthrough studies using a combination of four factors to reprogram human somatic cells into pluripotent stem cells without using embryos or eggs have led to an important revolution in stem cell research. Comparative analysis of human induced pluripotent stem cells and human embryonic stem cells using assays for morphology, cell surface marker expression, gene expression profiling, epigenetic status, and differentiation potential have revealed a remarkable degree of similarity between these two pluripotent stem cell types. This mini-review summarizes these ground-breaking studies. These advances in reprogramming will enable the creation of patient-specific stem cell lines to study various disease mechanisms. The cellular models created will provide valuable tools for drug discovery. Furthermore, this reprogramming system provides great potential to design customized patient-specific stem cell therapies with economic feasibility.
Keywords: Reprogramming, pluripotency, embryonic stem (ES) cells, induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, stem cell therapy, regenerative medicine
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