Published 30 June 2011 by Beatrice Lugger

Sir Martin J. Evans – Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting 2011

The Lability of the Differentiated State

Many classical studies have shown that cell fates become progressively restricted during development and that this restriction is typically irreversible. This has led to the dogma of the Stability of the Differentiated State: cells cannot typically move from one differentiated state to another.

The recent reports of experimental manipulation of cell differentiation and fate by use of transcription factors must lead to a reevaluation of this concept. Retrospectively these results should not surprise us as there are many well-established examples of „trans-differentiation“, both in spontaneous regeneration and in particular experimental situations.

Differentiation is a metastable state and as we start to understand mechanism simple dogmas prove unhelpful guides.

Beatrice Lugger

Beatrice Lugger is a science journalist and science social media specialist with a background as a chemist. She is Scientific Director of the National Institute for Science Communication, NaWik – @BLugger is her twitter handle, Quantensprung her own blog.