Department of Surgery »  Faculty »  Holger Willenbring, M.D., Ph.D.

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

Associate 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
willenbringh@stemcell.ucsf.edu

Education

  • 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

Residencies

  • 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

Postdoctoral Training

  • Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon, Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics, 10/2001 -10/2005

Research Interests

  • Liver Cell Therapy
  • LIver Development
  • Liver Regeneration

Research Overview

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. 

Mentored Research Residents

ResidentYearsGrant or Funding Source
Jack Harbell, M.D. 07/2011 – 06/2013 SUS/Ethicon Resident Research Scholarship
Garrett Roll, M.D. 07/2009 – 06/2011 Hepatology Training Grant at UCSF (NIH T32DK060414)
 

Publications

Most recent publications from a total of 45
  1. Mattis AN, Song G, Hitchner K, Kim RY, Lee AY, Sharma AD, Malato Y, McManus MT, Esau CC, Koller E, Koliwad S, Lim LP, Maher JJ, Raffai RL, Willenbring H. A screen in mice uncovers repression of lipoprotein lipase by microRNA-29a as a mechanism for lipid distribution away from the liver. Hepatology. 2014 Aug 18. View in PubMed
  2. Lee RH, Roll G, Nguyen V, Willenbring H, Tang Q, Kang SM, Stock PG. Failure to Achieve Normal Metabolic Response in Non-Obese Diabetic Mice and Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Mice After Transplantation of Primary Murine Hepatocytes Electroporated With the Human Proinsulin Gene (p3MTChins). Transplant Proc. 2014 Jul-Aug; 46(6):2002-6. View in PubMed
  3. Lee RH, Roll G, Nguyen V, Willenbring H, Tang Q, Kang SM, Stock PG. Failure to Achieve Normal Metabolic Response in Non-Obese Diabetic Mice and Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Mice After Transplantation of Primary Murine Hepatocytes Electroporated With the Human Proinsulin Gene (p3MTChins). Transplant Proc. 2014 Jul-Aug; 46(6):2002-6. View in PubMed
  4. Mitchell C, Willenbring H. Addendum: A reproducible and well-tolerated method for 2/3 partial hepatectomy in mice. Nat Protoc. 2014 May 29; 9(6). View in PubMed
  5. Espejel S, Eckardt S, Harbell J, Roll GR, McLaughlin KJ, Willenbring H. Parthenogenetic embryonic stem cells are an effective cell source for therapeutic liver repopulation. Stem Cells. 2014 Apr 16. View in PubMed
  6. Ng R, Wu H, Xiao H, Chen X, Willenbring H, Steer CJ, Song G. Inhibition of miR-24 expression in liver prevents hepatic lipid accumulation and hyperlipidemia. Hepatology. 2014 Mar 28. View in PubMed
  7. Zhu S, Rezvani M, Harbell J, Mattis AN, Wolfe AR, Benet LZ, Willenbring H, Ding S. Mouse liver repopulation with hepatocytes generated from human fibroblasts. Nature. 2014 Apr 3; 508(7494):93-7. View in PubMed
  8. Mathur A, Loskill P, Hong S, Lee J, Marcus SG, Dumont L, Conklin BR, Willenbring H, Lee LP, Healy KE. Human induced pluripotent stem cell-based microphysiological tissue models of myocardium and liver for drug development. Stem Cell Res Ther. 2013; 4 Suppl 1:S14. View in PubMed
  9. Lim L, Balakrishnan A, Huskey N, Jones KD, Jodari M, Ng R, Song G, Riordan J, Anderton B, Cheung ST, Willenbring H, Dupuy A, Chen X, Brown D, Chang AN, Goga A. MicroRNA-494 within an oncogenic microRNA megacluster regulates G1 /S transition in liver tumorigenesis through suppression of mutated in colorectal cancer. Hepatology. 2014 Jan; 59(1):202-15. View in PubMed
  10. Willenbring H, Soto-Gutierrez A. Transplantable liver organoids made from only three ingredients. Cell Stem Cell. 2013 Aug 1; 13(2):139-40. View in PubMed
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