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Holger Willenbring, MD, PhD

Research Interests

The liver can regenerate, but this ability is lost in chronic liver disease. Because donor organs for liver transplantation are sparse, our goal is to establish novel means of liver regeneration. For example, we are working to develop liver cell therapy with hepatocytes derived from pluripotent stem cells. For this, we are using signals that regulate the proliferation and differentiation of liver stem/progenitor cells to convert pluripotent stem cells into therapeutically effective and expandable hepatocytes. In addition to losing its regenerative capacity, the diseased liver undergoes scarring and develops cancer. Another goal of our laboratory is to understand the mechanisms that lead to liver cancer formation, in particular with regard to the role of liver stem/progenitor cells.


Selected Publications

  • Fan B, Malato Y, Calvisi DF, Naqvi S, Razumilava N, Ribback S, Gores GJ, Dombrowski F, Evert M, Chen X, Willenbring H. Cholangiocarcinomas can originate from hepatocytes in mice. J Clin Invest. 2012 Aug 1;122(8):2911-5.

  • Ng R, Song G, Roll GR, Frandsen NM, Willenbring H. A microRNA-21 surge facilitates rapid cyclin D1 translation and cell cycle progression in mouse liver regeneration. J Clin Invest. 2012 Mar 1;122(3):1097-108.

  • Malato Y, Naqvi S, Schürmann N, Ng R, Wang B, Zape J, Kay MA, Grimm D, Willenbring H. Fate tracing of mature hepatocytes in mouse liver homeostasis and regeneration. J Clin Invest. 2011 Dec;121(12):4850-60.

  • Espejel S, Roll GR, McLaughlin KJ, Lee AY, Zhang JY, Laird DJ, Okita K, Yamanaka S, Willenbring H. Induced pluripotent stem cell-derived hepatocytes have the functional and proliferative capabilities needed for liver regeneration in mice. J Clin Invest. 2010 Sep;120(9):3120-6.

Holger Willenbring
  • Professor
  • Surgery

Research Theme

  • Progenitor Cells, Growth and Development

Contact Information

  • 513 Parnassus Ave
  • Box 0525, S1457B
  • San Francisco, CA 94143-0525

Other UCSF Affiliations

  • Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research
  • BMS Graduate Program


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