ChE Seminar: Dr. Sean P. Palecek

Event Date: March 6, 2018
Speaker: Dr. Sean P. Palecek
Speaker Affiliation: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Time: 3:00 - 4:15 pm
Location: FRNY G140
Open To: Attendance required for PhD students
Priority: No
School or Program: Chemical Engineering
College Calendar: Show
Milton J. and A. Maude Shoemaker Professor University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dr. Sean P. Palecek
Milton J. and A. Maude Shoemaker Professor
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Read more about Dr. Sean Palecek at


Engineering a Human Blood Brain Barrier Model from Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells for Disease Modeling and Drug Discovery

The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is critical in maintaining brain homeostasis and disrupted BBB is associated with many neurological diseases. The BBB consists of brain microvascular endothelial cells (BMECs) that line the brain vasculature and astrocytes, neurons and pericytes which regulate BMEC function as part of the neurovascular unit (NVU). We have developed methods to differentiate human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to each of the neurovascular unit cell types and combined these to construct an in vitro model of the human BBB that displays physiologic barrier function and BBB-specific active transporter expression. We can generate BMECs that progress through mesoderm and endothelial progenitors by activating Wnt and retinoic acid signaling at appropriate differentiation stages while brain specific pericytes arise from iPSC-derived neural crest progenitors. Using patient-specific iPSCs, we demonstrated that MCT8 thyroid hormone transporter is necessary for thyroid hormone transport across the BBB, suggesting that MCT8 deficiency affects neuronal development by slowing thyroid hormone transport into the brain. We anticipate this isogenic model of the BBB will have applications in furthering our understanding of intercellular interactions in the NVU in both healthy and diseased humans.


Sean Palecek is the Milton J. and Maude Shoemaker Professor and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Sean’s lab studies how human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) sense and respond to microenvironmental cues in making fate choices, with a focus on differentiation to cardiovascular lineages. Sean’s lab has generated novel mechanistic insight and developed protocols for differentiation of hPSCs to cardiovascular and neurovascular cell types. They strive to engineer fully-defined, animal component-free differentiation platforms, compatible with biomanufacturing of cells for in vitro and in vivo applications. Sean’s recent awards include the Cozzarelli Prize of the National Academy of Sciences and the Biotechnology Progress Excellence in Research Publication Award for his work on cardiovascular tissue manufacturing from hPSCs. Sean is the Bioengineering Thrust Leader for the UW Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center and the Associate Director for Research for the National Science Foundation funded Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies.