Tumorigenicity is a well-documented risk to overcome for pluripotent or multipotent cell applications in regenerative medicine. To address the emerging demand for safe cell sources in tissue regeneration, we established a novel, protein-based reprogramming method that does not require genome integration or oncogene activation to yield multipotent fibromodulin (FMOD)-reprogrammed (FReP) cells from dermal fibroblasts. When compared with induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), FReP cells exhibited a superior capability for bone and skeletal muscle regeneration with markedly less tumorigenic risk. Moreover, we showed that the decreased tumorigenicity of FReP cells was directly related to an upregulation of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2B (CDKN2B) expression during the FMOD reprogramming process. Indeed, sustained suppression of CDKN2B resulted in tumorigenic, pluripotent FReP cells that formed teratomas in vivo that were indistinguishable from iPSC-derived teratomas. These results highlight the pivotal role of CDKN2B in cell fate determination and tumorigenic regulation and reveal an alternative pluripotent/multipotent cell reprogramming strategy that solely uses FMOD protein.


Zhong Zheng, Chenshuang Li, Pin Ha, Grace X. Chang, Pu Yang, Xinli Zhang, Jong Kil Kim, Wenlu Jiang, Xiaoxiao Pang, Emily A. Berthiaume, Zane Mills, Christos S. Haveles, Eric Chen, Kang Ting, Chia Soo


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