Henk Roelink

Associate Professor of Genetics, Genomics and Development
Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
University of California, Berkeley

T cells are the primary regulators of adaptive immune responses, and thus have enormous therapeutic potential in treating a variety of diseases, including autoimmunity and cancer. A major limitation to using T cells in therapy is the availability of primary T cells with relevant functional properties and tissue compatibility. Recently it has been shown that expression of Notch ligands in an in vitro culture system for blood cell development creates a robust in vitro differentiation system for mouse T cells. The development of equivalent systems in human could potentially provide a source of primary T cells to be used in a variety of clinical settings. We are using our expertise in Notch signaling and T cell development to establish systems to generate primary T cells from human embryonic stem cells and to use these systems to investigate basic aspects of human T cell differentiation. These studies may open the way to induce the differentiation and expansion of specific functional subsets of T cells for therapeutic purposes.