A photo of James Wells, PhD.

James M. Wells, PhD

  • Director for Research, Division of Endocrinology
  • Chief Scientific Office, Center for Stem Cell and Organoid Medicine (CuSTOM)
  • Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics



The focus of his teams basic research has been to identify the molecular mechanisms involved in the embryonic development of endocrine cells including pancreatic beta cells and tissues of the gastrointestinal tract. Their translational projects have focused on identifying new approaches to improve child health in several ways: 1. To identify and use embryonic pathways to generate complex, three-dimensional organ tissues from pluripotent stem cells, 2. Use these tissues to develop new in vitro human models for diabetes and digestive disease research and 3. Develop long-term, therapeutic strategies for cell and tissue-replacement therapies.

BS: Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Maine, Orono, ME, 1987.

PhD: Graduate program in Genetics, SUNY at Stony Brook, New York, 1995.

Postdoctoral Fellow: Harvard University, Cambridge MA, 1996 - 2001. 


Understanding the development of the pancreas, and gastrointestinal organs; generating 3-dimensional human tissues from pluripotent stem cells and using these as human models of diabetes and digestive disease.

For more information, please visit the CuSTOM web page.

Research Areas

Endocrinology, Developmental Biology


Development of functional resident macrophages in human pluripotent stem cell-derived colonic organoids and human fetal colon. Múnera, JO; Kechele, DO; Bouffi, C; Qu, N; Jing, R; Maity, P; Enriquez, JR; Han, L; Campbell, I; Mahe, MM; et al. Cell Stem Cell. 2023; 30:1434-1451.e9.

Ontogeny and function of the circadian clock in intestinal organoids. Rosselot, AE; Park, M; Kim, M; Matsu-Ura, T; Wu, G; Flores, DE; Subramanian, KR; Lee, S; Sundaram, N; Broda, TR; et al. The EMBO Journal. 2022; 41:e106973.

A dietary change to a high-fat diet initiates a rapid adaptation of the intestine. Enriquez, JR; McCauley, HA; Zhang, KX; Sanchez, JG; Kalin, GT; Lang, RA; Wells, JM. Cell Reports. 2022; 41:111641.

Eicosatetraynoic Acid and Butyrate Regulate Human Intestinal Organoid Mitochondrial and Extracellular Matrix Pathways Implicated in Crohn's Disease Strictures. Jurickova, I; Bonkowski, E; Angerman, E; Novak, E; Huron, A; Akers, G; Iwasawa, K; Braun, T; Hadar, R; Hooker, M; et al. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. 2022; 28:988-1003.

Enteroendocrine cell differentiation and function in the intestine. Sanchez, JG; Enriquez, JR; Wells, JM. Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity. 2022; 29:169-176.

Functional human gastrointestinal organoids can be engineered from three primary germ layers derived separately from pluripotent stem cells. Eicher, AK; Kechele, DO; Sundaram, N; Berns, HM; Poling, HM; Haines, LE; Sanchez, JG; Kishimoto, K; Krishnamurthy, M; Han, L; et al. Cell Stem Cell. 2022; 29:36-51.e6.

Developmental basis of trachea-esophageal birth defects. Edwards, NA; Shacham-Silverberg, V; Weitz, L; Kingma, PS; Shen, Y; Wells, JM; Chung, WK; Zorn, AM. Developmental Biology. 2021; 477:85-97.

Case Report: Esophageal Bronchus in a Neonate, With Image, Histological, and Molecular Analysis. Trisno, SL; Higano, NS; Kechele, D; Nasr, T; Chung, W; Zorn, AM; Woods, JC; Wells, JM; Kingma, PS. Frontiers in Pediatrics. 2021; 9:707822.

Application of Interacting Multiple Model for Future State Prediction of Small Unmanned Aerial Systems. Wells, JZ; Kumar, R; Kumar, M. (2021) Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). 00:3755-3760.

Engineering-inspired approaches to study β-cell function and diabetes. Lewis, PL; Wells, JM. Stem Cells. 2021; 39:522-535.