University of Wisconsin–Madison

James A. Thomson

  • Director of Regenerative Biology, Morgridge Institute for Research
  • MacArthur Professor of Cell & Regenerative Biology, University of Wisconsin

James A. Thomson

  • Professor of Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology, UC-Santa Barbara


Contact Information

James Thomson’s email

(608) 316-4346

Other web pages

Aligned research focus

Regenerative Biology

Organ system/disease focus

The development and differentiation of pluripotent stem cells, including embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells

Research description

In the early 1990s, my lab derived ES cells from an Old World monkey (the rhesus macaque) and a New World monkey (the common marmoset), work that led to derivation of human ES cells in 1998. Much of my lab’s research after that derivation was dedicated to establishing human ES cells as an accepted, practical model system. To that end, we developed defined culture conditions, methods for genetic manipulation, and approaches for the in vitro differentiation of human ES cells to key lineages of clinical importance including hematopoietic, neural, cardiac and placental tissues. More recently, in 2007, my laboratory described the isolation of human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells with the basic properties of human ES cells but derived from somatic cells.

My research now focuses on understanding how a cell can maintain or change identity, how a cell chooses between self-renewal and the initial decision to differentiate, and how a differentiated cell with limited developmental potential can be reprogrammed to a pluripotent cell.

My current research interests include:

  • Examining the transcriptional networks in ES cells that mediate self-renewal and commitment to each of the basic lineages of the early embryo
  • Mapping the epigenome of ES cells and their early-differentiated derivatives as a participant in the San Diego Epigenome Center
  • Improving methods for generating human iPS cells, and correcting genetic defects in iPS cells generated from patients with degenerative retinal disease
  • Developing new strategies to convert human pluripotent stem and somatic cells into hematopoietic, vascular and cardiac progenitor cells
  • Understanding clocking mechanisms that control developmental rates

Selected references

Howden SE, Maufort JP, Duffin B, Elefanty AG, Stanley EG, Thomson JA. Simultaneous Reprogramming and Gene Correction of Patient Fibroblasts. Stem Cell Reports. 2015. Dec 8;5(6):1109-18.

Dixon JR, Inkyung J, Selvaraj S, Shen Y, Antosiewicz-Bourget JE, Lee AY, Ye Z, Kim A, Rajagopal T, Xie W, Dioa T, Liang J, Zhao H, Lobanenkov VV, Ecker J, Thomson JA, Ren B. Chromatin Architecture Reorganization During Stem Cell Differentiation. Nature. 2015. Feb 19;518(7539):331-6.

Hou Z, Zhang Y, Propson NE, Howden SE, Chu LF, Sontheimer EJ, Thomson, JA. Efficient Genome Engineering in Human Pluripotent Stem Cells Using Cas9 from Neisseria meningitides. Proc Natl Acad Sci, USA. 2013. 110 (39): 15644-9

Wei X, Lister R, Schultz M, Rajagopal N, Hou Z, Ray P, Whitaker J, Tian S, Hawkins RD, Leung D, Wang T, Yang H, Swanson SA, Yun Z, Lee AY, Kim A, Nery J, Urich MA, Kuan S, Yen S, Klugman S, et al. Epigenomic Analysis of Multi-lineage Differentiation of Human Embryonic Stem Cells. Cell. 2013. 153(5):1134-1148.

Chen G, Gulbranson D, Hou Z, Bolin J, Probasco MD, Smuga-Otto K, Howden SE, Diol N, Propson NE, Wagner R, Lee GO, Antosiewicz-Bourget J, Teng JMC, Thomson JA. Chemically defined conditions for human iPS cell derivation and culture. Nature Methods. 2011. 8(5):424-9.

Lister R, Pelizzola M, Kida YS, Hawkins RD, Nery JR, Hon G, Antosiewicz-Bourget J, O’Malley R, Castanon R, Downes M, Yu R, Stewart R, Ren B, Thomson JA, Evans RM, Ecker JR. Hotspots of aberrant epigenomic reprogramming in human iPS cells. Nature. 2011. 471(7336): 68-73.

Yu J, Hu K, Smuga-Otto K, Tian S, Stewart R, Slukvin II, Thomson JA. Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Free of Vector and Transgene Sequences. Science. 2009.324(5928):797-801.

Yu J, Vodyanik M, Smuga-Otto K, Frane J, Antosiewicz-Bourget J, Frane J, Tian S, Nie J, Jonsdottir GA, Ruotti V, Stewart R, Slukvin II, Thomson JA. Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines Derived from Human Somatic Cells. Science. 2007. 318: 1917-1920.

Thomson JA, Itskovitz-Eldor J, Shapiro SS, Waknitz MA, Swiergiel JJ, Marshall VS, Jones JM. Embryonic stem cell lines derived from human blastocysts. Science. 1998. 282(5391):1145-1147.