Wells laboratory: Stem cell systems

Research Overview

Stem Cell Systems

What gives a cell its identity? This can be described in terms of developmental origin (ontogeny), or anatomical location (anatomy), or in situ function (physiology). When synthetically deriving a cell – for example, directing differentiation from a stem cell in a dish, or reprogramming a cell to take on functions that sit outside of an anatomical or developmental equivalent – new molecular definitions need to be found. These rely on discovery of the molecules that can define the uniqueness of a cell, predict its capacity to change or respond to differentiating or activating cues. Systems Biology approaches can describe these as molecular circuits – networks or pathways – necessary for cells to undertake specific functions. Our laboratory uses computational and systems biology approaches to understand two important cell types:

  1. The tissue macrophage, and its role in tissue damage and repair.
    • We discover new molecules that confer functions to macrophages in recognition of inflammatory stimuli, and which are implicated in tissue damage during ischemic injury (stroke). We work on the C-type lectin Mincle (Clec4e), and associated signalling networks.
  2. Stem cells, pluripotent stem cells, and adult progenitor cells.
    • The Stemformatics project. The MSC project.


Dr Jarny Choi, Bioinformatician, Research Fellow 
Jack Bransfield, Full Stack Developer
Isaac Virshup, PhD Student
Nadia Rajab, PhD Student
Zahra Elahi, PhD Student 
Dr Paul Angel, Research Fellow
Keilara Briggs, EA to Professor Wells


Othmar Korn, University of Queensland
Dr Kim-Anh LeCao, University of Melbourne
Stem Cells Australia
FANTOM5 Consortium, RIKEN Japan
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research
Centre for Eye Research Australia


NHMRC Project Grant (2016-17): "The C-type lectin Mincle exemplifies a new mode of sterile inflammation in cardiovascular disease"
ARC Future Fellowship (2015-19): "The Systems Biology of Stem Cells"
NCRIS: Bioplatforms Australia
Philanthropic funding: JEM Research Foundation

Research Outcomes

2016 Eureka Prize for International Scientific Collaboration - FANTOM5 consortium

2015 Metcalf Prize for Stem Cells Research - Professor Christine Wells