University of Wisconsin-Madison

Induced pluripotent stem cell-derived endothelial cells (iPSC-EC) form 3D capillary networks in synthetic extracellular matric (ECM). Immunofluorescence images for iPSC-EC in synthetic ECM at day 5 [endothelial cell marker (CD31, green), fibroblast marker (alpha-SMA, red), nucleus marker (DAPI, blue)]

Image provided by Matt Zanotelli

BML in the News

Organoid system for toxicological screening

March 10, 2019: At the Society of Toxicology 2019 meeting, Professor William Murphy gave the opening plenary lecture; "Robust Assembly of Human Tissues for Disease Modeling and Discovery". Communication blog.

Stem cells: How we got here, where we’re going

January 17, 2019:  The first in a series of four videos about stem cell research here at UW–Madison: how it started, what it’s achieved, and where it’s headed. Catch up on what’s happened since James Thomson’s prescient prediction that stem cells “will change medicine, period.”

Murphy’s law: Make materials with biology in mind

December 11, 2018. As an undergraduate student majoring in physics at Illinois Wesleyan University, William Murphy took exactly one biology course: Biology 101.

Two decades later, he’s built a career around creating what he calls “bio-inspired” materials such as tissues for drug modeling and bone regeneration. Murphy, the Harvey D. Spangler Professor of biomedical engineering and orthopedics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, looks to nature for insights on his designs.

“I didn’t start doing anything biomedical until I was in graduate school,” he says. “And so I think that order of things—starting in physics and materials science and then encountering biology—was helpful. Biology became an inspiration for how I wanted to build materials.”  

Read the full Article here.

Manufacturing cells to regenerate tissues, build treatments and cures

November 2018. Most people don’t think of manufacturing when it comes to biology. But new bioengineering technologies to regenerate human tissue on a commercial scale will be critical to the next phase in stem cell research.

There are considerable economic and technical challenges that come with manufacturing stem cells on a large scale. Some people could be helped tremendously by replacing diseased heart muscle cells, for example. But it takes billions of cells per patient to recreate those tissues. At the moment, we don’t have an efficient and cost-effective means of producing so many cells.

Read the full Article here.

Biomanufacturing projects stepping out at UW-Madison

November 2018. A series of projects aimed at advancing the human-health and economic impact of biomanufacturing is already benefiting from a new University of Wisconsin–Madison institute aimed at making the state a Midwestern hub of the ongoing merger of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cutting-edge tissue engineering.

The Forward BIO Institute, announced last month, intends to accelerate UW–Madison’s existing expertise in the next wave of biomedicine.

William Murphy, a professor of biomedical engineering and orthopedics at UW–Madison, directs the Institute.   Read the full Article here.

Shining light on University- industry collaboration

September 2018.  Launch of the Forward BIO collaboration is a collaborative effort to make Wisconsin a recognized center of excellence for biomanufacturing.

This initiative, between campus, a nonprofit lab facility at University Research Park and BioFoward Wisconsin, a group dedicated to creating partnerships between government, higher ed and private industry, will help incubate new start-ups by our faculty, staff and students, providing a space where entrepreneurial ideas in biotechnology can be tested. Read the full Article here.

September 2018. A $750,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. announced today establishes the Forward BIO Initiative, a collaborative effort to make Wisconsin a recognized center of excellence for biomanufacturing.

“The Forward BIO Initiative will have everything it takes to amplify the impact of Wisconsin’s innovations in biomanufacturing,” said William Murphy, a professor of biomedical engineering and orthopedics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a serial entrepreneur, who is chair of the Initiative.

Murphy defines biomanufacturing as “the use of advanced manufacturing approaches to create the next generation of healthcare products, such as cell therapy, engineered tissue, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.”

The Forward BIO Initiative will offer resources to efficiently translate innovations into commercial products in biomanufacturing. The Initiative comprises the Forward BIO Institute, based at UW–Madison, Forward BIOLABS, housed at University Research Park, and BioForward Wisconsin.

Read the full Article here. and here.

Big Idea: Using plant leaves as scaffolding to grow human cells

July 2017:  Murphy’s team found that leaf structures not only have an “incredible ability” for mass transport, moving and expelling fluids rapidly and efficiently from one end to the other, but that human cells pattern themselves in the same aligned and structured direction as the plant tissue. 

Wisconsin’s best-known naturalist, John Muir (who took his first botany class at UW–Madison), said that when one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the universe. Biomedical engineering professor William Murphy felt that pull one spring day in 2014 from his office chair, staring at the Lakeshore Nature Preserve while contemplating the tiny, highly processed chips he’d been developing to grow microscale human tissues. Read the full Article here.


Advance furthers stem cells for use in drug discovery, cell therapy

July 2017: This week, a UW–Madison team reports in Nature Biomedical Engineering that they have jumped a major hurdle on the path toward wider use of stem cells. 

Using an automated screening test that they devised, William Murphy, a professor of biomedical engineering, and colleagues Eric Nguyen and William Daly have invented an all-chemical replacement for  the confusing, even dangerous materials, now used to grow these delicate cells.

“We set out to create a simple, completely synthetic material that would support stem cells without the issues of unintended effects and lack of reproducibility,” Murphy says. Read the full Article here.  Read the full paper here. 

UW-Madison scientists, inspired by old bones, find new strategy for drug delivery

June 2017: UW-Madison scientists, inspired by proteins found intact in centuries-old human bones, created a mineral coating that mimics bone and appears to keep proteins stable.

“What’s needed is a delivery system that remains localized, releases the protein over an extended time frame and keeps the protein active,” said William Murphy, a UW-Madison professor of biomedical engineering.

Murphy and his colleagues, including Xiaohua Yu of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, reported on their mineral coating — constructed at the miniature level of biology known as the nanoscale — in this week’s edition of the journal Advanced Materials. Read full article here.  Read full paper here

Synthetic alternatives to Matrigel for toxicity screening and stem cell expansion

June 2017: Arrays of synthetic hydrogels outperforms Matrigel in the screening for vascular-disrupting compounds and in supporting the expansion of human embryonic stem cells.

The paper is published in nature biomedical Engineering. To read behind the paper go here. 

UW-Madison scientists grow functional artery cells from stem cells, truly functional arterial cells reportedly created for the first time

September 2016: Gamm’s team (includes scientist Joe Phillips; neuroscience professors Tim Gomez and Xinyu Zhao, and bioengineers Justin Williams and William Murphy) awarded NIH Grant to Reverse Blindness.

Madison, Wisconsin - A UW-Madison research team has been selected to work on one of six projects aimed at restoring vision by regenerating light-sensing photoreceptor cells in the eye. Dr. David Gamm, director of the McPherson Eye Research Institute and associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and his team will work with a Johns Hopkins team on the project, funded by the National Institutes of Health to reverse blindness.

Together, the projects will receive $12.4 million over three years. They are part of the National Eye Institute (NEI) Audacious Goals Initiative, a targeted effort to restore vision by regenerating neurons and their connections in the eye and visual systems.  Read Full Article Here


Since the 1980s, stem cells’ shape-shifting abilities have wowed scientists. With proper handling, a few growth factors, and some time, stem cells can be cooked up into specific cell types, including neurons, muscle, and skin. However, stem cells know more than they’re given credit for. Over the past decade, researchers have discovered that, left to their own devices, stem cells will generate multiple cell types that assemble into structures resembling an organ. These organoids have been made for many body parts, including the retina, liver, intestine, kidney, and even the brain. Read Full Article Here  

3D brain-on-a-chip helps predict drug neurotoxicity 

February 2016: NIH-funded engineered brain tissue identifies toxins correctly 9 out of 10 times

To help test the toxicity of new drugs, NIBIB researchers have engineered a 3D brain organoid—a miniature organ structure that attempts to mimic the function of the organ but does not develop fully.  In a paper published in PNAS, the teams from the Morgridge Institute for Research and the University of Wisconsin-Madison describe how they developed a chip with neural tissue that possess many traits of brain tissue, including neurons, support cells, vascular structure and immune cells. Read Full Article Here and Here

Stratatech will establish skin tissue inventory in case of natural or man-made emergency

February 2016: Stratatech receives $247 million contract to develop skin product. Stratatech will use the contract money to fund a final phase clinical trial for its flagship StrataGraft product, which is delivered to users frozen, giving it a shelf life of about a year, Allen-Hoffmann said. Stratatech is also developing a large pipeline of enhanced human skin products, including an anti-infective skin, a skin that helps grow new blood vessels underneath it and an anti-tumor skin for patients who have had certain skin cancers.

"Stratatech is an excellent example of how far we've come in cell-based therapies and tissue regeneration, and how close we are to widespread use of these strategies for patients who don't have other options," Bill Murphy said. Read full Article 

Baldwin Pushes For New Standards In Regenerative Medicine Industry 

January 18, 2016: U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin has introduced new legislation to create industry standards for regenerative medicine.

The bill would create a public-private board to set guidelines for regenerative medical products, including those developed from stem cells. Dr. Bill Murphy, co-director of University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center, said the standards used currently aren’t specific to the cells and tissues used in the therapies. As these products start to be manufactured outside the research lab, Murphy said companies need guidelines in order for those medicines to be "safe and effective for a broad range of patients."

Murphy said it's important that all stakeholders in regenerative medicine play a part in creating effective guidelines.

"We need to understand, what is the current state of the art in manufacturing these therapies; what do we know about the relationship between the manufacturing process for a product and its safety and efficacy in clinical trials in people; and what are the best practices for manufacturing," Murphy said.  Read full Article 

New way of developing tissue mimics brain function, has potential to eventually replace animal testing 

October 2015: UW scientists develop brain-like structure to improve drug safety testing. 

University of Wisconsin scientists have created a structure that mimics brain function and may be used to determine the safety of pharmaceutical drugs and industrial chemicals.

Using a hydrogel, a gel-like substance that readily absorbs water and stem cells, UW and Morgridge Institute for Research scientists have been able to successfully create cellular structures that mimic how brain tissue functions, Michael Schwartz, an assistant scientist in biomedical engineering at UW, said.

The program is called the “Tissue Chip” program, and in addition to UW, there are 10 other universities working on the project. The goal is to create various types of human tissues in order to create better methods of screening pharmaceutical drugs, William Murphy, co-director of the UW Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center, said. Read Full Article Here.

"Brain in a Dish" could replace toxic animal test

September 2015: Scientific American and Francis Collins, NIH director, discuss the potential potential impacts of Michael Schwartz's human brain models on hydrogels. These "Brain in a Dish" models may provide a fast, low cost way to screen drug and chemical neurotoxicity during human brain development. Read Full Articles Here and Here

Stem cell-derived brain mimics predict chemical toxicity

September 2015: Michael Schwartz tested the toxicity of 60 different chemicals on  miniature model brains developed using neural progrenitor cells grown on hydrogels. Read Full Articles Here and Here

Why drug companies need human tissue- especially liver

July 2015: Bill Murphy talks to the Washington Post about the ethics and importance of human tissue in drug testing and developmentRead Full Article

The Canadian military wants to use stem cells to help its soldiers heal

June 2015: Bill Murphy talks to Vice News about the use of stem cells in regenerative technologies capable of healing battlefield injuries Read Full Article

Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center features collaboration with Tissue Regeneration Systems

April 2015: Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center features collaboration with Tissue Regeneration Systems to develop bioresorbable, implantatable devices for skeletal reconstruction and bone regeneration Watch Video Here

α/β-Peptides Could Offer Low-Cost Alternative To Antibody Drugs

April 2015: Samuel H. Gellman, William L. Murphy, Katrina T. Forest, and coworkers have designed a two-helix α/β-peptide with afffinity for VEGF and demonstrated its use by inhibiting the growth of cells lining blood vessels, a process important in limiting the growth of cancerous tissue. Using the same method, the researchers created two modified versions that also selectively bind the large proteins TNF-α and IgG Read Full Article

Researchers aim to broaden understanding of how toxins affect the body

March 2015: Bill Murphy is leading a diverse team of UW-Madison researchers who received $6 million from the EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program. The grant will create the Human Models for Analysis of Pathways (H-MAPs) Center at UW-Madison which will draw on the team's combined expertise to develop "organotypic" culture models as well as robust, practical technological tools that allow researchers to rapidly and reliably screen many toxins simultaneously Read Full Article

WPR: "Tissue Chips" could replace animal testing

February 2015: Wisconsin Public Radio interviews Bill Murphy about how organotypic tissue models developed at Uw-Madison would be used to advance drug screening Listen to the Interview Here

Wisconsin Public Television Wednesday Night at the Lab: 20 years of stem cell milestones at UW-Madison

January 2015: Bill Murphy discusses the history, advances, and new initiatives in stem cell research at UW-Madison Watch Video Here

UW-Madison lecture on Regenerative Medicine: from stem cells to new organs

September 2014: UW-Madison's "Mini Med School" course titled "Regenerative Medicine: from stem cells to new organs" features prominent UW stem cell and regenerative medicine researchers (Tim Kamp, Sean Palecek, Bill Murphy, Jamie Thomson, Sam Gubbels, Amish Raval) who discuss the fundamentals of stem cells and their development for therapeutic applications Watch Lecture Here

Murphy collaboration with Thomson and Page labs receives additional $7 million grant from NIH to develop "organs on a chip" for drug screening

September 2014: A multidisciplinary collaboration between James Thomson, Bill Murphy, and David Page will receive an additional $7 million in NIH funding to continue their work as part of the Tissue Chip for Drug Screening program Read the Press Release

NPR: Big picture science- Replace what ails you

July 2014: NPR interviews Bill Murphy about stem cell use in human therapy Full Interview

Stem cell advances may quell ethics debate

June 2014: USA Today quotes Bill Murphy in an article discussing advances in stem cell research that might quell the public debate concerning the ethics of human embryonic stem cell use  Read Full Article

Education, surgery try "speed dating" for research

January 2014: Bill Murphy's collaboration with Craig Kent, chairman of surgery at UW-Madison, is in the spotlight as an example for ambitious surgeons seeking collaborations with engineering faculty to improve health care quality   Read Full Article

Materials screening method allows more precise control over stem cells

April 2013: A new non-viral transfection method, developed by Siyoung Choi and Xiaohua Yu, is in the UW-Madison College of Engineering spotlight  Read Full Article 

Murphy collaboration with Thomson and Page labs receives $2.2 million grant from NIH as part of a $132 billion federal initiative to create "organs on a chip"

July 2012: Bill Murphy's collaboration with James Thomson and David Page receives $2.2 Million NIH grant to develop pluripotent stem cell-based models for predictive neural toxicity and teratogenicity as part of a federal initiative to develop "organs on a chip." Read the UW Press ReleaseMSNBC CoverageWisconsin Journal Sentinel Article, and visit the NIH Central Website for the Program

Proteins as tools for bone repair

February 2012: A modular bone morphogenetic peptide (mBMP), developed by Darilis Suarez-Gonzalez and Jae-Sung Lee featured in Medical New Today, Medical XPress, and the WARF Accelerator Pipeline. Read the full articles HereHereHere, and Here

Bill Murphy's lecture on stem cell research and tissue engineering is featured on Wisconsin Public Television 

October 2011: Bill Murphy's lecture "Using stem cells to make tissues" for Wednesday Night @ the Lab is featured on Wisconsin Public Television Watch the Broadcast Here