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René Maehr, PhD

Associate Professor, Program in Molecular Medicine at UMass Chan Medical School

PhD in Pathology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Postdoc, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Diplom, Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany


Type 1 Diabetes Research

Investigating how normal differentiation of the thymic epithelial cell lineage is regulated, and recapitulating that process with pluripotent stem cells. We envisage that this approach will unlock the potential of patient-specific pluripotent stem cells for study, and eventually treatment strategies, of human immune syndromes.

The thymus, a primary lymphoid organ that regulates development of T lymphocytes. Dysfunction of thymus-mediated tolerance and failures in thymus organogenesis have been linked to autoimmunity and immune deficiencies, respectively. In addition, rejuvenation of thymus function could address acquired, and age-related decline in adaptive immunity. 

In an approach we call Applied Developmental Biology, we merge approaches and technologies from various disciplines of biology


Working to generate patient-specific thymus function by using human pluripotent stem cells in directed differentiation approaches that mimic developmental differentiation cues in 2D or 3D cell culture environment.

Stem Cell Biology

Human pluripotent stem cells are utilized to investigate the molecular basis of cell fate decisions in the endodermal lineage. In addition, the use of induced pluripotent stem cells allows for capturing a disease associated, potentially susceptibility conferring, genotype in a stem cell. With differentiation approaches, we explore stem cell-based models of immune syndromes.

Developmental Biology

Mouse models are utilized to elucidate the molecular basis of thymus organogenesis. For example, we applied high-throughput single cell RNA-seq technologies to draft a developmental cell atlas of thymus organogenesis.

Functional Genomics

Massive parallel sequencing approaches are used to determine transcriptomic and chromatin states guiding cellular differentiation and function. Hypotheses developed from computational analysis of those datasets are tested with CRISPR technologies.

Selected Publications