James Thomson

Position title: John D. Macarthur Professor; Director of Regenerative Biology, Morgridge Institute For Research; Professor, Department of Cell and Regenerative Biology, UW School of Medicine and Public Health; Professor, Department of Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology, UC Santa Barbara

Email: jthomson@morgridge.org

Phone: Phone: (608) 316-4348

RESEARCH INTERESTS - Human and non-human primate embryonic stem cells

Headshot of James Thomson


Address: Morgridge Institute For Research – 330 N Orchard St. – Madison, WI 53715



BS, University of Illinois-Champaign
VMD, University of Pennsylvania
PhD 1988 University of Pennsylvania
Postdoctoral Research, Oregon National Primate Center


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 (iPS cells) 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.
Representative Publications: Visit the Thomson lab page (Morgridge Institute)
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