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:
  • Jiao H, Lee MS, Sivapatham A, Leiferman EM, Li WJ. Epigenetic regulation of BAF60A determine efficiency of miniature swine iPSC generation. Sci Rep 2022; 12:9039.
  • Walczak BE, Jiao H, Lee MS, Li WJ. Reprogrammed synovial fluid-derived mesenchymal stem/stromal cells acquire enhanced therapeutic potential for articular cartilage repair. Cartilage 2021; 13(2_suppl):530S-543S.
  • Lee MS, Stebbins MJ, Jiao H, Huang HC, Leiferman EM, Walczak BE, Palecek SP, Shusta EV, Li WJ. Comparative evaluation of isogenic mesodermal and ectomesodermal chondrocytes from human iPSCs for cartilage regeneration. Sci Adv 2021; 7:eabf0907.
  • Jiao H, Walczak BE, Lee MS, Lemieux ME, Li WJ. GATA6 regulates aging of human mesenchymal/stromal cells. Stem Cells 2021; 39:62-77.
  • Wang JF, Lee MS, Tsai TL, Leiferman EM, Trask DJ, Squire MW, Li WJ. Bone morphogenetic protein-6 attenuates type 1 diabetes mellitus-associated bone loss. Stem Cells Transl Med 2019; 8:522-534.
  • Lee MS, Wang J, Yuan H, Jiao H, Tsai TL, Squire MW, Li WJ. Endothelin-1 differentially directs linage specification of adipose- and bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells. FASEB J 2019; 33:996-1007.