The research program of Robert C. Huebert, M.D., focuses broadly on liver regenerative medicine, with a focus on understanding and treating the cholangiopathies, a diverse group of diseases targeting the biliary tree. Dr. Huebert's laboratory seeks to understand the molecular mechanisms that drive biliary development, regeneration and repair, including the signaling pathways and epigenetic events that drive these processes.
In addition, the laboratory has developed a novel method for the derivation of the epithelial cells that line the bile ducts (cholangiocytes) from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The lab is using this method to populate the Liver Biobank, a biorepository of iPSCs from patients with liver disease. The biobank will be used for individualized disease modeling, pharmacological testing and developing cell-therapy applications.
- Liver progenitor cell activation and differentiation. Dr. Huebert's lab studies the molecular mechanisms that coordinate the activation and differentiation of liver progenitor cells toward cholangiocytes, which involves various developmental morphogens and epigenetic modifiers.
- iPSC-derived cholangiocytes. Dr. Huebert's laboratory pioneered a novel technology to create cholangiocytes from pluripotent stem cells. This technology allows the laboratory to test the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms underlying biliary development and pathophysiology, and is also a platform for individualized modeling of biliary disease and testing pharmacotherapies.
- Liver Biobank. In conjunction with the Mayo Clinic Regenerative Medicine Biotrust, Dr. Huebert has created a biorepository of iPSCs from patients with liver disease. This robust biorepository serves as a powerful source of patient-specific cells to enhance the study and treatment of liver disease.
Significance to patient care
Dr. Huebert's line of research will allow better understanding of the pathophysiology of cholangiopathies, identify new molecular targets, and lead to regenerative medicine strategies to study and treat this group of disorders.
His laboratory's long-term goals include development of regenerative therapeutics for biliary disease. Importantly, the lab was the first to demonstrate liver engraftment of stem cell-derived cholangiocytes in vivo, setting the stage for cell-based therapeutic options for the cholangiopathies.
- Gilead Sciences Research Scholars Award in Liver Disease, 2016
- Postdoctoral Scholar Award, Regenerative Medicine Minnesota, 2015
- K08 Career Development Award, National Institutes of Health (NIH), 2013
- Awardee, Loan Repayment Program, NIH, 2009-2010, 2013-2015
- Advanced/Transplant Hepatology Fellowship, American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, 2012
- Young Investigator of the Year, Hartz Foundation, 2009