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Resident Research »  Leadership »  Research Committee Members »  Holger Willenbring, M.D., Ph.D.
Holger Willenbring, M.D., Ph.D.

Holger Willenbring, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Surgery
Member, Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research
Associate Director, Liver Center

Contact Information

(415) 476-2417 Office
(415) 514-2346 Facsimile
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  • Medical University Lübeck, Germany, 10/1989 - 07/1995
  • Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 08/1995 - 04/1996
  • University of Münster, Germany, 05/1996 - 12/1996
  • University of Münster, Germany, Department of Pediatrics, Medical Intern, 02/1997 - 07/1998
  • University of Münster, Germany, Department of Pediatrics, Medical Resident, 08/1998 - 09/2001
  • Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon, Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics, 10/2001 -10/2005
  • Liver Cell Therapy
  • LIver Development
  • Liver Regeneration

Our research is aimed at developing new therapies for patients with severe liver diseases. To restore liver function in patients with liver failure, we are working on generating hepatocytes from human pluripotent stem cells or by reprogramming of readily accessible human cell types. To be therapeutically effective, these cells need to replicate both function and the ability to proliferate of primary human hepatocytes. To establish and improve protocols for the production of such cells, we have been working on obtaining a detailed molecular understanding of hepatocyte differentiation and regeneration. For this, we are using mouse models for liver cell lineage tracing developed in our laboratory. In addition, we are using rigorous animal models of human liver failure to test the therapeutic efficacy of our surrogate hepatocytes. While developing novel liver cell therapies is our main focus, we are also using hepatocytes derived from human pluripotent stem cells or by reprogramming to generate in vitro and in vivo liver disease models. Another goal of our laboratory is to determine the origin and follow the fate of liver cancer-initiating cells with the goal to identify the molecular mechanisms that drive liver cancer formation and progression. For this, we are using new mouse models generated in our laboratory. By obtaining an improved understanding of hepatocarcinogenesis, we hope to contribute to the development of strategies for early detection and effective eradication of liver cancer. 

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Data provided by UCSF Profiles, powered by CTSI
  1. Kurial SNT, Willenbring H. Transcriptomic Traces of Adult Human Liver Progenitor Cells. Hepatology. 2020 Apr; 71(4):1504-1507. View in PubMed
  2. Chen F, Jimenez RJ, Sharma K, Luu HY, Hsu BY, Ravindranathan A, Stohr BA, Willenbring H. Broad Distribution of Hepatocyte Proliferation in Liver Homeostasis and Regeneration. Cell Stem Cell. 2020 Jan 02; 26(1):27-33.e4. View in PubMed
  3. Huck I, Gunewardena S, Espanol-Suner R, Willenbring H, Apte U. Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4 Alpha Activation Is Essential for Termination of Liver Regeneration in Mice. Hepatology. 2019 08; 70(2):666-681. View in PubMed
  4. Schaub JR, Huppert KA, Kurial SNT, Hsu BY, Cast AE, Donnelly B, Karns RA, Chen F, Rezvani M, Luu HY, Mattis AN, Rougemont AL, Rosenthal P, Huppert SS, Willenbring H. De novo formation of the biliary system by TGFß-mediated hepatocyte transdifferentiation. Nature. 2018 05; 557(7704):247-251. View in PubMed
  5. Ian Huck, Sumedha Gunewardena, Regina Espanol-Suner, Holger Willenbring, Udayan Apte. Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4 alpha (HNF4a) Activation is Essential for Termination of Liver Regeneration. . 2018 Apr 20; 304808. View in PubMed
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