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Commentary

Conversion of pericytes to neurons: a new guest at the reprogramming convention

Emmanuel Nivet1, Ignacio Sancho-Martinez1 and Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte12*

Author Affiliations

1 Gene Expression Laboratory, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA

2 Center for Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona, Dr. Aiguader 88, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

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Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2013, 4:2  doi:10.1186/scrt150

Published: 11 January 2013

Abstract

Reprogramming strategies allow for the generation of virtually any cell type of the human body, which could be useful for cell-based therapy. Among the different reprogramming technologies available, direct lineage conversion offers the possibility to change the phenotype of a cell type to another one without pushing cells backwards to a plastic/proliferative stage. This approach has raised the possibility to apply a similar process in vivo in order to compensate for functional cell loss. Historically, the cerebral tissue is a prime choice for developing cell-based treatments. As local pericyte accumulation is observed after central nervous system injury, it can be reasoned that this cell type might be a good candidate for the conversion into new neurons in vivo. In this article, and by focusing on recent observations from Karow and colleagues demonstrating the possibility to convert human brain-derived pericytes into functional neurons, we present a brief overview of the state of the art and attempt to offer perspective as to how these interesting laboratory findings could be translated in the clinic.