Lisa Julian

Assistant Professor, Stem Cell Biology, Canada Research Chair in Developmental Origins of Stem Cell Fate

Areas of interest

My lab’s focus is to uncover the biological processes that regulate stem cell identity, and to understand how these mechanisms impact tissue development, long-term function, and susceptibility to disease. Our work is centered on neural stem cells; though we are also interested in other lineages, such as the neural crest, to understand how different stem cell populations are uniquely specified and controlled. We use developmental biology approaches to investigate: 1) the cell biological processes that underlie specification and regulation of normal stem cell populations, 2) how genetic mutations that give rise to brain disorders, many of which have effects in multiple tissues, differentially impact neural and other stem cell types, and 3) the impact of early stem cell regulatory processes on the development and long-term function of tissues like the brain.

Our primary model system is human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) and the specialized cell types we derive from them. We harness the broad developmental potential of hPSCs to model cell and tissue development in 2-dimensional culture and 3D tissue organoids. Many of our hPSCs are reprogrammed from patients who carry disease-causing genetic mutations or have undergone genome editing to carry mutations of interest. We also employ mouse models and many high-throughput techniques, including functional metabolic profiling, live cell and high content imaging, and automated neural activity analysis. Our long-term vision is to identify stem cell regulatory mechanisms that can be exploited for tissue regeneration, and to identify causative biological mechanisms, biomarkers and therapeutic approaches for rare genetic diseases.


  • BSc, University of Western Ontario
  • MSc, University of Western Ontario
  • PhD, University of Ottawa