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Module 5: Directed Differentiation and Transdifferentiation     

Introduction and Learning Objectives: 

Building on basic developmental biology knowledge, students will delve more deeply into how cells differentiate, both in vivo (during development and in the adult) and in vitro. Students will be introduced to different in vitro differentiation strategies with specific examples. Specifically, students will learn about directed differentiation by signaling molecules and direct programming by genetic means. This module will also explore using directed differentiation in regenerative medicine and the application of techniques such as organoids, chimeras, and drug screening. The examples will also convey different strategies for benchmarking differentiation success.

At the conclusion of this module, students should be able to:

  • Define differentiation and programming;
  • Compare and contrast specification, commitment, and differentiation;
  • Define a cell progenitor;
  • Understand differentiation trajectories in vivo and in vitro;
  • Extrapolate developmental biology concepts to stem cell differentiation in vitro;
  • Compare differentiation strategies;
  • Critique differentiation outcomes;
  • Evaluate whether in vitro cell differentiation is comparable to in vivo counterparts. 

Core Concepts

1. In vivo differentiation 
2. Specification during development 
3. Specification in adults
4. In vitro differentiation
5. Transdifferentiation and direct programming

This module is part of the ISSCR's Core Concepts in Stem Cell Biology: Syllabus and Learning Guide. To access the experiments, theories, and primary and secondary literature that support each of these concepts, download the complete resource by using the form on the right-hand side of this webpage.

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Education Committee

Esteban Orlando Mazzoni, PhD (Chair)
New York University, USA

William J. Anderson, PhD
Harvard University, USA

Sina Bartfeld, PhD
University of Wuerzburg, Germany

Anna Couturier
EuroStemCell and University of Edinburgh, UK

Yvanka de Soysa, PhD
Boston Children's Hospital, USA

Robin Scott Hawley, PhD
Stowers Institute for Medical Research, USA

Ping Hu, PhD
Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology Chinese Academy of Sciences, China

Yuin Han Jonathan Loh, PhD
Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore

Lolitika Mandal, PhD
Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Mohali, India

Zubin Master, PhD
Mayo Clinic, USA

Alysson Renato Muotri, PhD
University of California, San Diego, USA

Jose Maria Polo, PhD
Monash University, Australia

Julie Perlin, PhD
International Society for Stem Cell Research, USA