Qi-Long Ying (Photo by Cristy Lytal)

Qi-Long Ying (Photo by Cristy Lytal)

Qi-Long Ying: In a recent study published in Cell Stem Cell, Joshua Black and colleagues demonstrated that skin cells are converted into neurons using a powerful tool called CRISPR/Cas9 to concurrently modify and activate three specific target genes. Here, the key advance is that these three genes are naturally present within all skin cells. Previous approaches for direct reprogramming have relied on so-called “transgenes,” introduced into cells by various means. By avoiding the introduction of new genetic material, this new reprogramming approach reflects a more natural way to reprogram cells.