Br J Haematol. 2016 Jun;173(5):671-9
Blood disorders are treated with cell therapies including haematopoietic stem cell (HSC) transplantation as well as platelet and red blood cell transfusions. However the source of cells is entirely dependent on donors, procedures are susceptible to transfusion-transmitted infections and serious complications can arise in recipients due to immunological incompatibility. These problems could be alleviated if it was possible to produce haematopoietic cells in vitro from an autologous and renewable cell source. The production of haematopoietic cells in the laboratory from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) may provide a route to realize this goal but it has proven challenging to generate long-term reconstituting HSCs. To date, the optimization of differentiation protocols has mostly relied on the manipulation of extrinsic signals to mimic the in vivo environment. We review studies that have taken an alternative approach to modulate intrinsic signals by enforced expression of transcription factors. Single and combinations of multiple transcription factors have been used in a variety of contexts to enhance the production of haematopoietic cells from human pluripotent stem cells. This programming approach, together with the recent advances in the production and use of synthetic transcription factors, holds great promise for the production of fully functional HSCs in the future.