Generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) via the ectopic expression of reprogramming factors is a simple, advanced, yet often perplexing technology due to low efficiency, slow kinetics, and the use of numerous distinct systems for factor delivery. Scientists have used almost all available approaches for the delivery of reprogramming factors. Even the well-established retroviral vectors confuse some scientists due to different tropisms in use. The canonical virus-based reprogramming poses many problems, including insertional mutagenesis, residual expression and re-activation of reprogramming factors, uncontrolled silencing of transgenes, apoptosis, cell senescence, and strong immunogenicity. To eliminate or alleviate these problems, scientists have tried various other approaches for factor delivery and transgene removal. These include transient transfection, nonintegrating viral vectors, Cre-loxP excision of transgenes, excisable transposon, protein transduction, RNA transfection, microRNA transfection, RNA virion, RNA replicon, nonintegrating replicating episomal plasmids, minicircles, polycistron, and preintegration of inducible reprogramming factors. These alternative approaches have their own limitations. Even iPSCs generated with RNA approaches should be screened for possible transgene insertions mediated by active endogenous retroviruses in the human genome. Even experienced researchers may encounter difficulty in selecting and using these different technologies. This survey presents overviews of iPSC technologies with the intention to provide a quick yet comprehensive reference for both new and experienced reprogrammers.
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