Wan-Ju Li, PHD

Position title: Associate Professor, Orthopedics and Rehabilitation / Biomedical Engineering

Email: li@ortho.wisc.edu

Phone: 608-263-1338

Organ System/Disease Focus:
Degenerative musculoskeletal disease
Aligned Research Focus:
Musculoskeletal tissue engineering, musculoskeletal biology, mesenchymal stem cell biology
Wan-Ju Li headshot


More information:
Research Description:

My research goal is to investigate and develop stem cell-based approaches to regenerate skeletal tissues, cartilage and bone, for orthopedic applications. We focus on solving two unmet challenges: 1) impact of cellular senescence associated with donor age and in vitro culture on lineage differentiation of stem cells and 2) controlled chondrogenic differentiation of stem cells into functional hyaline chondrocytes/cartilage. Our group uses induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) created through direct reprogramming of somatic cells by the integration-free episomal approach to address these challenges. Our research strategies and directions are promising because we have demonstrated that cellular reprogramming rejuvenates mesenchymal stem cells to enhance their properties for skeletal regeneration, and iPSCs are systemically induced into functional chondrocytes for hyaline cartilage formation.

Featured Researcher in Spring 2010 SCRMC Newsletter

Selected References:
  • Lee MS, Wang J, Yuan H, Jiao H, Tsai TL, Squire MW, Li WJ. Endothelin-1 differentially directs lineage specification of adipose- and bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells. FASEB J 2018 (in press)
  •  Tsai TL, Li WJ. Identification of Bone Marrow-derived Soluble Factors Regulating Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells for Bone Regeneration. Stem Cell Reports 2017; 8:387-400.
  •  Tsai TL, Wang B, Squire MW, Guo LW, Li WJ. Endothelial cells direct human mesenchymal stem cells for osteo- and chondro-lineage differentiation through endothelin-1 and AKT signaling. Stem Cell Res Ther 2015; 6:88.
  •  Brown PT, Squire MW, Li WJ. Characterization and evaluation of mesenchymal stem cells derived from human embryonic stem cells and bone marrow. Cell Tissue Res 2014; 358:149-164.
  •  Palumbo S, Tsai TL, Li WJ. Macrophage migration inhibitory factor regulate Akt signaling in hypoxic culture to modulate senescence of human mesenchymal stem cells. Stem Cells Dev 2014; 23:852-865.