Meri Firpo, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism

Meri Firpo

Contact Info

Office Address:
2-222 LRB/MTRF
2001 - 6th St SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Mailing Address:
2001 6th St SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism

Fellowship, National Jewish Institute for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, Denver, CO

Fellowship, DNAX Research Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology in Palo Alto, CA

PhD, Cornell University Medical College Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Sloan-Kettering Division, Ithaca, NY


Dr. Firpo is an Assistant Professor in the Stem Cell Institute and the Department of Medicine and Division of Endocrinology at the University of Minnesota, where she works on stem cell biology, and transplantation therapies for diabetes using human embryonic stem cells.

Dr. Firpo received her Ph.D. from the Cornell University Medical College Graduate School of Medical Sciences after completing a research project at the Sloan Kettering Institute in the laboratory of Malcolm A.S. Moore. Her research at the Sloan Kettering Institute was focused on adult bone marrow stem cells and congenital neutropenia. She then did a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Jewish Institute for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine in Denver, Colorado, where she completed a project on generating hematopoietic stem cells from mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells in culture in the laboratory of Gordon Keller. Dr. Firpo did a second postdoctoral fellowship at the DNAX Research Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology in Palo Alto, California, where she studied the development of the human hematopoietic system and human models of leukemia with Maria-Grazia Roncarolo and Reiko Namikawa.

After completing this training, Dr. Firpo joined the faculty of the University of California San Francisco, where she directed the derivation of two of the human ES cell lines included in the National Institutes of Health Registry of Human Embryonic Stem Cells. She has also derived new lines suitable for transplantation therapies using human feeder cells. She came to the University of Minnesota in 2005. 


Research Summary/Interests

The focus of my lab is the regulation of stem cell growth, both from the perspective of the expansion of stem cells in the lab, and the regulated differentiation to functional tissues. The overall goal of our research is to understand the regulation of human development. The research can be divided into two main directions: the first involves improvements in the derivation and propagation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs); the second is the development of stem cell-based therapies for diabetes.

For the first project, we have established procedures for the derivation of novel human embryonic stem cell lines that can be used as a model of normal human development and as potential source of cells for transplantation therapies. In addition, we are deriving new lines with specific genetic mutations that can be used both as in vitro models of disease processes, and systems for testing new methods to prevent and treat these disorders.

Toward the goals of the second project, we are isolating populations of cells containing candidates of pancreatic precursor cells by the introduction of regulatory and reporter genes into hESC. The cells are then tested for insulin production to determine their ability to function in vitro and in vivo. We think that these studies will lead to both a more clear understanding of human pancreatic development, and the generation of cells for diabetes transplantation therapies. 


  • R.A. Reijo Pera, DeJonge C., Bossert N., Yao M., Hwa Yang J.Y., Asadi N.B., Wong W., Wong C., Firpo M.T. (2009) Gene expression profiles of human inner cell mass cells and embryonic stem cells. Differentiation 78(1): 18-23.
  • Rodriguez R., Velkey, M., Lutzko, C. Bodnar, M, Kohn, D, O’Shea, K.S., Firpo, M.T. (2007) Manipulation of OCT-4 levels in human embryonic stem cells results in induction of differential cells types. Exp Biol Med 232(10): 1368-80.
  • G.M. Beattie, Lopez A.D., Bucay N., Hinton A., Firpo M.T., King C.C., Hayek A. Activin A maintains pluripotentiality of human embryonic stem cells in the absence of feeder layers. Stem Cells 23(4):489-95 (2005).
  • Bodnar M.S., Meneses J.J., Rodriguez R.R., Firpo M.T. Propagation and maintenance of undifferentiated human embryonic stem cells. Stem Cells and Development 13(3):243 (2004).
  • Abeyta MJ, Clark AT, Rodriguez RT, Bodnar MS, Pera RA, Firpo MT. Unique gene expression signatures of independently-derived human embryonic stem cell lines. Hum Mol Genet. 13(6):601-8. Epub 2004 Jan 28. (2004).
  • Namikawa R, Muench MO, Firpo MT, Humeau L, Xu Y, Menon S, Roncarolo MG (1999) Administration of Flk2/Flt3 ligand induces expansion of human high-proliferative potential colony-forming cells in the SCID-hu mouse. Exp Hematol 27:1029.
  • L. Humeau, C. Chabannon, M.T. Firpo, P. Mannoni, C. Bagnis, M.-G. Roncarolo, R. Namikawa. (1997). Successful reconstitution of multilineage human hematopoiesis in the SCID-hu mouse by genetically modified, highly enriched fetal liver stem cells. Blood; 90(9).
  • M. Kennedy, M.Firpo*, K. Choi, C. Wall, S. Robertson, N. Kabrun, G. Keller. Identification of a common precursor for primitive erythropoiesis and definitive multilineage hematopoiesis. Nature 386:488 (1997).


In The News

Mission to Bring Stem Cell-based Diabetes Therapies to Patients