Direct conversion of mouse and human fibroblasts to functional melanocytes by defined factors

Yang R, Zheng Y, Li L, Liu S, Burrows M, Wei Z, Nace A, Herlyn M, Cui R, Guo W, Cotsarelis D, Xu X. Nat Commun. 2014 Dec 16;5:5807. | doi: 10.1038/ncomms6807


As the main component of connective tissue in the body, fibroblasts are the most common type of cell. Taking advantage of that ready availability, scientists from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the Wistar Institute, Boston University School of Medicine, and New Jersey Institute of Technology have discovered a way to repurpose fibroblasts into functional melanocytes, the body's pigment-producing cells. The technique has immediate and important implications for developing new cell-based treatments for skin diseases such as vitiligo, as well as new screening strategies for melanoma. The work was published this week in Nature Communications.
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