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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
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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
      Incucyte Zoom Live Cell Analysis System
      NIH S10OD025060Apr 3, 2018 - Apr 2, 2019
      Role: Principal Investigator
      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

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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. Huggins IJ, Bos T, Gaylord O, Jessen C, Lonquich B, Puranen A, Richter J, Rossdam C, Brafman D, Gaasterland T, Willert K. The WNT target SP5 negatively regulates WNT transcriptional programs in human pluripotent stem cells. Nat Commun. 2017 Oct 18; 8(1):1034. PMID: 29044119.
        View in: PubMed
      2. 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
      3. 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
      4. Grainger S, Lonquich B, Oon CH, Nguyen N, Willert K, Traver D. CRISPR Guide RNA Validation In Vitro. Zebrafish. 2017 Aug; 14(4):383-386. PMID: 27829120.
        View in: PubMed
      5. 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 01; 17(6):1595-1606. PMID: 27806298.
        View in: PubMed
      6. 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
      7. 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 Nov 10; 4. PMID: 26554899; PMCID: PMC4631902.
      8. 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; PMCID: PMC4335800.
      9. 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 09; 3(6):1015-28. PMID: 25458891; PMCID: PMC4264562.
      10. 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; PMCID: PMC3910637.
      11. 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; PMCID: PMC3832467.
      12. Brafman DA, Moya N, Allen-Soltero S, Fellner T, Robinson M, McMillen ZL, Gaasterland T, Willert K. Analysis of SOX2-expressing cell populations derived from human pluripotent stem cells. Stem Cell Reports. 2013; 1(5):464-78. PMID: 24286033; PMCID: PMC3841266.
      13. Willert K, Nusse R. Wnt proteins. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2012 Sep 01; 4(9):a007864. PMID: 22952392; PMCID: PMC3428774.
      14. 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 Mar 15; 7(4):703-17. PMID: 22422316.
        View in: PubMed
      15. 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 01; 364(1):11-21. PMID: 22290330; PMCID: PMC3310225.
      16. Bauer M, Willert K. Wnt signaling: the ß-cat(enin)'s meow. Genes Dev. 2012 Jan 15; 26(2):105-9. PMID: 22279043; PMCID: PMC3273833.
      17. 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; PMCID: PMC3258625.
      18. Brafman DA, Chang CW, Fernandez A, Willert K, Varghese S, Chien S. Long-term human pluripotent stem cell self-renewal on synthetic polymer surfaces. Biomaterials. 2010 Dec; 31(34):9135-44. PMID: 20817292; PMCID: PMC2949524.
      19. Lu D, Liu JX, Endo T, Zhou H, Yao S, Willert K, Schmidt-Wolf IG, Kipps TJ, Carson DA. Ethacrynic acid exhibits selective toxicity to chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells by inhibition of the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway. PLoS One. 2009 Dec 14; 4(12):e8294. PMID: 20011538; PMCID: PMC2789382.
      20. Brafman DA, Shah KD, Fellner T, Chien S, Willert K. Defining long-term maintenance conditions of human embryonic stem cells with arrayed cellular microenvironment technology. Stem Cells Dev. 2009 Oct; 18(8):1141-54. PMID: 19327010.
        View in: PubMed
      21. Lancaster MA, Louie CM, Silhavy JL, Sintasath L, Decambre M, Nigam SK, Willert K, Gleeson JG. Impaired Wnt-beta-catenin signaling disrupts adult renal homeostasis and leads to cystic kidney ciliopathy. Nat Med. 2009 Sep; 15(9):1046-54. PMID: 19718039; PMCID: PMC2895985.
      22. Brafman DA, de Minicis S, Seki E, Shah KD, Teng D, Brenner D, Willert K, Chien S. Investigating the role of the extracellular environment in modulating hepatic stellate cell biology with arrayed combinatorial microenvironments. Integr Biol (Camb). 2009 Sep; 1(8-9):513-24. PMID: 20023766.
        View in: PubMed
      23. Soda M, Willert K, Kaushansky K, Geddis AE. Inhibition of GSK-3beta promotes survival and proliferation of megakaryocytic cells through a beta-catenin-independent pathway. Cell Signal. 2008 Dec; 20(12):2317-23. PMID: 18804163; PMCID: PMC2677808.
      24. Willert K. Isolation and application of bioactive Wnt proteins. Methods Mol Biol. 2008; 468:17-29. PMID: 19099243.
        View in: PubMed
      25. Willert K, Jones KA. Wnt signaling: is the party in the nucleus? Genes Dev. 2006 Jun 01; 20(11):1394-404. PMID: 16751178.
        View in: PubMed
      26. 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; PMCID: PMC2566934.
      27. 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
      28. 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
      29. 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