Neural stem cells / neural progenitor cells that have the properties of self-renewal and multipotency hold great promise for both fundamental research and potential biomedical therapy. To get an unfailing clinical cell pool for cell transplantation, neural stem cells / neural progenitor cells (NPCs) can be reprogrammed from other terminally differentiated somatic cells by defined factors even cross the germ-layer. However, the exogenous genes and/or vectors often cause tumorigenesis. Recently, achievements in the induction of miPS cells by only chemical compounds or under transient low-pH conditions give the clue for iNPCs without introducing exogenous factors.
Now a Chinese group from Shanghai report that NPCs can be generated from mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) by a chemical cocktail, namely VCR (V, VPA, an inhibitor of HDACs; C, CHIR99021, an inhibitor of GSK-3 kinases and R, Repsox, an inhibitor of TGF-β pathways), under a physiological hypoxic condition. These chemical-induced NPCs (ciNPCs) look like their mouse brain-derived counterparts as their proliferative rate, gene expression profiles, and multipotency for different neuroectodermal lineages in vitro and in vivo. Further experiments reveal that ciNPCs can also be induced from other cell type like mouse tail-tip fibroblasts (TTFs) and human urinary cells with the same chemical cocktail so-called VCR. This study thus provides a possible approach to generate patient-specific NPCs for curing human neural diseases.