ARTICLE | Cover Story

Making a Hard Cell

September 11, 2008 7:00 AM UTC

A trio of papers suggests that transforming one differentiated cell type into another can be accomplished without the need for pluripotent, stem cell-like intermediates. Stem cell companies, however, don't think their technologies will be obviated by these discoveries because the new techniques face delivery, dosage and safety challenges that are more complex than those of typical stem cell therapies.

The papers, all published in Nature, show that mouse muscle precursor cells and pancreatic exocrine cells can be coaxed to transdifferentiate into brown adipose tissue1,2 and islet b-cells,3 respectively. Brown fat could be useful in treating obesity and type 2 diabetes because brown fat cells burn fat, generating heat in the process. The insulin-secreting b-cells could be useful in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes...