Sean Palecek

Position title: Professor - Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering


Phone: (608) 262-8931

RESEARCH INTERESTS - Differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells to cells and tissues for developmental studies, disease modeling, and cell therapies

Headshot of Dr. Sean Palecek
Address: 3637 Engineering Hall, 1415 Engineering Drive, Madison, WI 53706
Visit the Palecek Lab Website
More Information: Dr. Palecek’s College of Engineering Homepage



BChE:  University of Delaware
MS:  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) have the ability to differentiate to any cell type, providing an in vitro model to study human development and disease as well as a source of human cells for developing cell-based therapies.  Realization of the promise of hPSCs for these applications requires a clearer fundamental understanding of how cells make fate choices during differentiation and development of efficient processes to guide hPSCs through appropriate developmental stages to generate mature, functional somatic cell types of interest.

Our laboratory uses engineered microenvironments to systematically study how external cues, such as soluble factors, extracellular matrix, cell-cell interactions, and mechanical forces, affect hPSC differentiation fates.  We then use this mechanistic insight to design and implement simple, efficient, robust, scalable processes to generate various specialized cell types from hPSCs.  We use tissue engineering strategies to combine multiple hPSC-derived cell types into higher order functional tissue structures.  We use genome editing tools to engineer cells to report their differentiation state and to control developmental pathways that guide differentiation fates.  We also use multiple -omics technologies with models and data analytics to better classify cell types understand transitions between these cell types.  Our lab currently focuses on hPSC-derived cardiovascular cells and tissues, neurovascular tissues to model the blood-brain barrier, and engineered skin and other epithelial tissues. We collaborate with academic and industry colleagues to advance hPSC-derived cells as clinical therapeutics and are working toward manufacturing high quality cells for clinical applications as part of the National Science Foundation Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies (CMaT).