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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. 

Most recent publications from a total of 59
  1. 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 Aug; 70(2):666-681. View in PubMed
  2. 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
  3. Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4 alpha (HNF4a) Activation is Essential for Termination of Liver Regeneration. . 2018 Apr 20; 304808. View in PubMed
  4. 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
  5. Abou-Alfa GK, Andersen JB, Chapman W, Choti M, Forbes SJ, Gores GJ, Hong TS, Harding JJ, Vander Heiden MG, Javle M, Kelley RK, Kwong LN, Lowery M, Merrell A, Miyabe K, Rhim A, Saha S, Sia D, Tanasanvimon S, Venook A, Valle JW, Walesky C, Whetstine J, Willenbring H, Zhu AX, Mayer D, Stanger BZ. Advances in cholangiocarcinoma research: report from the third Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation Annual Conference. J Gastrointest Oncol. 2016 Dec; 7(6):819-827. View in PubMed
  6. Rezvani M, Español-Suñer R, Malato Y, Dumont L, Grimm AA, Kienle E, Bindman JG, Wiedtke E, Hsu BY, Naqvi SJ, Schwabe RF, Corvera CU, Grimm D, Willenbring H. In Vivo Hepatic Reprogramming of Myofibroblasts with AAV Vectors as a Therapeutic Strategy for Liver Fibrosis. Cell Stem Cell. 2016 06 02; 18(6):809-16. View in PubMed
  7. Rezvani M, Grimm AA, Willenbring H. Assessing the therapeutic potential of lab-made hepatocytes. Hepatology. 2016 07; 64(1):287-94. View in PubMed
  8. Desai SS, Tung JC, Zhou VX, Grenert JP, Malato Y, Rezvani M, Español-Suñer R, Willenbring H, Weaver VM, Chang TT. Physiological ranges of matrix rigidity modulate primary mouse hepatocyte function in part through hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 alpha. Hepatology. 2016 07; 64(1):261-75. View in PubMed
  9. 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. 2015 Jan; 61(1):141-52. View in PubMed
  10. Hentzschel F, Hammerschmidt-Kamper C, Börner K, Heiss K, Knapp B, Sattler JM, Kaderali L, Castoldi M, Bindman JG, Malato Y, Willenbring H, Mueller AK, Grimm D. AAV8-mediated in vivo overexpression of miR-155 enhances the protective capacity of genetically attenuated malarial parasites. Mol Ther. 2014 Dec; 22(12):2130-41. View in PubMed
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