Nuclear reprogramming describes a switch in gene expression of one kind of cell to that of another unrelated cell type. Early studies in frog cloning provided some of the first experimental evidence for reprogramming. Subsequent procedures included mammalian somatic cell nuclear transfer, cell fusion, induction of pluripotency by ectopic gene expression, and direct reprogramming. Through these methods it becomes possible to derive one kind of specialized cell (such as a brain cell) from another, more accessible, tissue (such as skin) in the same individual. This has potential applications for cell replacement without the immunosuppression treatments that are required when cells are transferred between genetically different individuals. This article provides some background to this field, a discussion of mechanisms and efficiency, and comments on prospects for future nuclear reprogramming research.