Xue-Jun Li

Dr. Xue-Jun (June) Li

Principal Investigator

Dr. Xue-Jun (June) Li is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford. She received her PhD in Neurobiology from Shanghai Medical School of Fudan University. To pursue her strong interests in neurodegenerative disease and regenerative medicine, she joined the Stem Cell Research Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, first as a postdoctoral associate and then as an assistant scientist. Before coming to Rockford in 2016, she was an Assistant Professor at the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Connecticut and was also the Assistant director of the UConn-Wesleyan Stem Cell Core Research Program.

Dr. Li’s research focuses on specifying neuronal subtypes from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) and using these stem cell-derived neurons to study motor neuron diseases, major causes of disabilities. Dr. Li has published over 37 peer reviewed manuscripts and 3 book chapters. As the lead author, she published the seminal report on the specification of spinal motor neurons from hPSCs (Nature Biotechnology, 2005). This paradigm she developed has been widely used in motor neuron research (>600 citations; Google Scholar 01/2016). Recently, her lab has successfully established human stem cell models for spinal muscular atrophy (Cell Research, 2013; Disease Models & Mechanisms, 2016) and hereditary spastic paraplegias (Stem Cells, 2014; Human Molecular Genetics, 2014). Her research is supported by grant funding from the National Institute of Health, the Connecticut Stem Cell Research Program, the Spastic Paraplegia Foundation, and the ALS Association.

Dr. Li has a patent on the method of in vitro differentiation of neural stem cells and spinal motor neurons. At the Rockford campus, Dr. Li will continue her studies on human stem cells and motor neuron diseases to find a cure for these debilitating diseases.
In recognition of her research, Dr. Li has been invited to present her group’s findings in national and international meetings and serves on several grant review panels. Dr. Li is an editorial board member of two journals in the field of neurology and stem cell biology.

Dr. Li has trained a number of medical students, graduate students and undergraduate students. Not only the trainees in her lab have won many presentation awards, they have been very successful during their training. For example, Dr. Kyle Denton, her PhD student who graduated in 2015, won the Lepow Award, which is given to the Outstanding Rising 4th Year Biomedical Science Student (only one student is selected per year). By working closely with her lab members and collaborating with faculty members in different areas (e.g. bioengineering, medicine, pharmacology, and immunology) at the University of Illinois, Dr. Li is committed to fight the neurodegenerative diseases and spinal cord injury and to improve the quality of life of these patients.