Chemically induced cell fate reprogramming and the acquisition of plasticity in somatic cells.


State Key Laboratory of Natural and Biomimetic Drugs, MOE Key Laboratory of Cell Proliferation and Differentiation, Beijing Key Laboratory of Cardiometabolic Molecular Medicine, Center for Life Sciences, Institute of Molecular Medicine, Peking University, Beijing, China. Electronic address: [Email]


The nature of somatic cell fate has always been considered relatively unchangeable. Only in rare cases, in response to highly specific environmental cues, do differentiated mammalian somatic cells transform into other cell types. However, the fact that cell fate reprogramming can be accomplished by utilizing chemical cocktails, in the absence of any genetic alterations, suggests that the fate determination of somatic cells is much more malleable than previously believed. The use of chemical cocktails to directly alter cell fate sheds light on an important, yet less explored approach to regenerative medicine: the use of chemicals to restore functions to injured, aging or diseased tissues. Here, we review and discuss the recent developments, inspirations, and challenges encountered when modulating cell fate reprogramming with chemicals, and investigate how chemical biology impacts the future of cell fate reprogramming and regenerative medicine.