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    Karl Willert

    TitleAssociate Professor In Residence
    SchoolUniversity of California, San Diego
    DepartmentCellular and Molecular Medicine
    Address9500 Gilman Drive #0695
    CA La Jolla 92093
    Phone858-822-3235
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      Collapse Overview 
      Collapse Overview
      Dr. Karl Willert is an expert in stem cell and developmental biology. Dr. Willert obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University of California, San Diego (1989) and earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry (1996) from the University of California, San Francisco under the guidance of Dr. Harold Varmus. Subsequently, he worked as a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Roeland Nusse at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. In 2008, after working in the biotechnology sector for a few years, Dr. Willert was recruited as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cellular & Molecular Medicine at the University of California, San Diego.

      Underlying Dr. Willert’s research interests has been the study of WNT proteins, a family of secreted growth factors that regulate embryonic development and tissue homeostasis and impact a large number of human diseases, including neurodegeneration and cancer. Throughout his scientific career, Dr. Willert has incorporated biochemical, genetic and cell biological approaches to study these proteins and their signaling cascades. In a seminal study, Dr. Willert purified WNT proteins (he holds the patent on the “Composition of Active WNT protein”) and demonstrated that they harbor potent stem cell growth factor activities. His current research focuses on how WNT proteins regulate self renewal and differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells. He is actively collaborating on multiple projects, including with colleagues Dr. Dennis Carson (WNT-FZD signaling in cancer), Dr. Terry Gaasterland (genome-wide approaches to understanding WNT signaling), Dr. Maike Sander (generation of human pancreatic beta cells), Dr. David Traver (specification of hematopoietic stem cells), and Dr. Gene Yeo (integration of WNT signaling and RNA binding proteins).

      Dr. Willert has authored over 40 peer-reviewed publications, invited book chapters and review articles in the areas of WNT biochemistry and signaling and stem cell biology. Dr. Willert has been awarded 3 grants from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine totaling $7.1 million. His research is also supported by The National Institute of Health and the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias.

      Research Focus Areas:

    • Developmental Biology

    • Signal Transduction

    • Stem Cell Biology



    • Collapse Research 
      Collapse Research Activities and Funding
      Wnt signaling in hematopoietic development
      NIH/NHLBI R01HL135205Jan 1, 2017 - Dec 31, 2020
      Role: Principal Investigator
      Analyzing the role of Wnt signaling during reprogramming.
      NIH/NIGMS R01GM110304Apr 10, 2014 - Feb 28, 2019
      Role: Principal Investigator
      Wnt Signaling in Development and Disease
      NIH/NCI R13CA128448Jun 1, 2007 - May 31, 2008
      Role: Principal Investigator

      Collapse ORNG Applications 
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      Collapse Bibliographic 
      Collapse Publications
      Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Researchers can login to make corrections and additions, or contact us for help.
      List All   |   Timeline
      1. Rodvold JJ, Chiu KT, Hiramatsu N, Nussbacher JK, Galimberti V, Mahadevan NR, Willert K, Lin JH, Zanetti M. Intercellular transmission of the unfolded protein response promotes survival and drug resistance in cancer cells. Sci Signal. 2017 Jun 06; 10(482). PMID: 28588081.
        View in: PubMed
      2. Richter J, Traver D, Willert K. The role of Wnt signaling in hematopoietic stem cell development. Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 2017 Aug; 52(4):414-424. PMID: 28508727.
        View in: PubMed
      3. Grainger S, Lonquich B, Oon CH, Nguyen N, Willert K, Traver D. CRISPR Guide RNA Validation In Vitro. Zebrafish. 2016 Nov 9. PMID: 27829120.
        View in: PubMed
      4. Grainger S, Richter J, Palazón RE, Pouget C, Lonquich B, Wirth S, Grassme KS, Herzog W, Swift MR, Weinstein BM, Traver D, Willert K. Wnt9a Is Required for the Aortic Amplification of Nascent Hematopoietic Stem Cells. Cell Rep. 2016 Nov 1; 17(6):1595-1606. PMID: 27806298.
        View in: PubMed
      5. Huggins IJ, Brafman D, Willert K. Methods to Manipulate and Monitor Wnt Signaling in Human Pluripotent Stem Cells. Methods Mol Biol. 2016; 1481:161-81. PMID: 27590161.
        View in: PubMed
      6. Kumar N, Richter J, Cutts J, Bush KT, Trujillo C, Nigam SK, Gaasterland T, Brafman D, Willert K. Generation of an expandable intermediate mesoderm restricted progenitor cell line from human pluripotent stem cells. Elife. 2015; 4. PMID: 26554899.
        View in: PubMed
      7. Ross J, Busch J, Mintz E, Ng D, Stanley A, Brafman D, Sutton VR, Van den Veyver I, Willert K. A Rare Human Syndrome Provides Genetic Evidence that WNT Signaling Is Required for Reprogramming of Fibroblasts to Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells. Cell Rep. 2014 Dec 11; 9(5):1770-80. PMID: 25464842.
        View in: PubMed
      8. Moya N, Cutts J, Gaasterland T, Willert K, Brafman DA. Endogenous WNT Signaling Regulates hPSC-Derived Neural Progenitor Cell Heterogeneity and Specifies Their Regional Identity. Stem Cell Reports. 2014 Dec 9; 3(6):1015-28. PMID: 25458891.
        View in: PubMed
      9. Fernandez A, Huggins IJ, Perna L, Brafman D, Lu D, Yao S, Gaasterland T, Carson DA, Willert K. The WNT receptor FZD7 is required for maintenance of the pluripotent state in human embryonic stem cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jan 28; 111(4):1409-14. PMID: 24474766.
        View in: PubMed
      10. Bauer M, Bénard J, Gaasterland T, Willert K, Cappellen D. WNT5A Encodes Two Isoforms with Distinct Functions in Cancers. PLoS One. 2013; 8(11):e80526. PMID: 24260410.
        View in: PubMed
      11. Willert K, Nusse R. Wnt proteins. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2012 Sep; 4(9):a007864. PMID: 22952392.
        View in: PubMed
      12. Brafman DA, Chien S, Willert K. Arrayed cellular microenvironments for identifying culture and differentiation conditions for stem, primary and rare cell populations. Nat Protoc. 2012 Apr; 7(4):703-17. PMID: 22422316.
        View in: PubMed
      13. Gallegos TF, Kouznetsova V, Kudlicka K, Sweeney DE, Bush KT, Willert K, Farquhar MG, Nigam SK. A protein kinase A and Wnt-dependent network regulating an intermediate stage in epithelial tubulogenesis during kidney development. Dev Biol. 2012 Apr 1; 364(1):11-21. PMID: 22290330.
        View in: PubMed
      14. Bauer M, Willert K. Wnt signaling: the ß-cat(enin)'s meow. Genes Dev. 2012 Jan 15; 26(2):105-9. PMID: 22279043.
        View in: PubMed
      15. Mulligan KA, Fuerer C, Ching W, Fish M, Willert K, Nusse R. Secreted Wingless-interacting molecule (Swim) promotes long-range signaling by maintaining Wingless solubility. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jan 10; 109(2):370-7. PMID: 22203956.
        View in: PubMed
      16. Willert K. Isolation and application of bioactive Wnt proteins. Methods Mol Biol. 2008; 468:17-29. PMID: 19099243.
        View in: PubMed
      17. Willert K, Jones KA. Wnt signaling: is the party in the nucleus? Genes Dev. 2006 Jun 1; 20(11):1394-404. PMID: 16751178.
        View in: PubMed
      18. Galli LM, Barnes T, Cheng T, Acosta L, Anglade A, Willert K, Nusse R, Burrus LW. Differential inhibition of Wnt-3a by Sfrp-1, Sfrp-2, and Sfrp-3. Dev Dyn. 2006 Mar; 235(3):681-90. PMID: 16425220.
        View in: PubMed
      19. Galli LM, Willert K, Nusse R, Yablonka-Reuveni Z, Nohno T, Denetclaw W, Burrus LW. A proliferative role for Wnt-3a in chick somites. Dev Biol. 2004 May 15; 269(2):489-504. PMID: 15110715.
        View in: PubMed
      20. Reya T, Duncan AW, Ailles L, Domen J, Scherer DC, Willert K, Hintz L, Nusse R, Weissman IL. A role for Wnt signalling in self-renewal of haematopoietic stem cells. Nature. 2003 May 22; 423(6938):409-14. PMID: 12717450.
        View in: PubMed
      21. Willert K, Brown JD, Danenberg E, Duncan AW, Weissman IL, Reya T, Yates JR, Nusse R. Wnt proteins are lipid-modified and can act as stem cell growth factors. Nature. 2003 May 22; 423(6938):448-52. PMID: 12717451.
        View in: PubMed