Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Cell biology

CRISPR switches cell types

By activating a suite of genes using the gene-targeting tool CRISPR–Cas9, researchers have turned connective-tissue cells called fibroblasts directly into neurons.

Directly reprogramming cells from one identity to another could one day provide abundant material for disease research or therapies. But scientists face a technical challenge — keeping genes required for the new identity switched on for a lengthy period of time. To resolve this, Charles Gersbach at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and his colleagues used a CRISPR–Cas9-based system to activate three genes, converting mouse embryonic fibroblasts into neuronal cells and sustaining gene activation throughout the process.

The technique could provide a way to reprogram cells without having to insert genes into the genome.

Cell Stem Cell (2016)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

CRISPR switches cell types. Nature 536, 252 (2016).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing