Accomplishment Announcement: Dr. Holger Russ

Dr. Holger Russ

Congratulations to Associate Professor, Holger A. Russ, Ph.D. of the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics. In early August, Dr. Russ added the title of “Honorary Senior Research Fellow” at the University of Birmingham UK.

Dr. Holger Russ is interested in elucidating the underlying mechanisms that lead to the development of diabetes in humans. One specific focus of the lab is to investigate and elucidate molecular mechanisms that govern human beta cell development, maturation, replication, and function under steady state conditions and response’s to stress(es). Dr. Russ’ lab was among the first three groups demonstrating the generation of functional beta cells from human pluripotent stem cells under cell culture conditions. It is now possible to generate patient specific cell lines with the ability to differentiate into any cell type thus enabling the study of beta cell function in a specific genomic context. The Russ lab is taking advantage of recent breakthroughs in genome editing technology to establish different inducible CRISPR/Cas9 systems to facilitate rapid and precise gene modification of pluripotent stem- and its differentiated cell derivates. While the pancreatic beta cell is key to glucose homeostasis, the thymus gland also plays a critical role in the development of T1D. The Russ lab was the first to demonstrate the successful generation of human embryonic stem cell-derived thymic epithelial cells (TECs) by directed differentiation. Moving forward, the lab is determined to combine in vitro derived thymic epithelium with human T-cell progenitors either in vitro or in vivo to study diverse aspects of autoimmunity in a strictly human context.