Transdifferentiation potentially provides the use of patient's own adult tissues to restore any damaged organs or tissue.
Professor Ferber was the first to demonstrate the capacity to induce a shift of adult liver tissue into insulin producing cells.
What is transdifferentiation?
Transdifferentiation (or cell reprograming) is the conversion of one adult tissue/or cell into another type of cell, with its distinct phenotype and function.
The activation of the alternate repertoire is associated by the loss of the host cell repertoire (the host cell no longer serves its original function) and adapting new cell function. It is a fast process (it takes a few days).
During the process of transdifferentiation, the host cell acquires mesenchymal characteristics and a high level of cellular plasticity that enable it to change its original phenotype into another type of cell.
The changes from one adult tissue to another are required epigenetic changes. These epigenetic modifications can be induced artificially through the introduction of transcription factors (TF) (exogenous factors). The exogenous TFs serve as a 'short term trigger', which activates the expression of 'silent' relevant endogenous TFs in the treated cells, which induce comprehensive cell reprograming. It is a safe process since the activation of the lineage specific transcription factors (TFs) does not require the insertion of foreign genes into the genomic host.
Liver and pancreatic cells share a common developmental origin making liver cells good candidates for transdifferentiation into β-like cells.