Dr. Spence was born in Chatham, Ontario Canada and attended elementary and high school in Blenheim, Ontario. Dr. Spence moved to the U.S. for his postsecondary education, and attended Canisius College, a small liberal arts school in Buffalo, NY, graduating in 2001. He attended graduate school at Miami University (Ohio) where he earned his Ph.D. in 2006. His Ph.D. work, conducted in the lab of Katia Del Rio-Tsonis, focused on understanding mechanisms that drive regeneration and tissue repair in unique model organisms that maintain regenerative ability throughout life, including Notophthalmus viridescens (Eastern Newt), Ambystoma mexicanum (Axolotl) and the chick.
Following his Ph.D., he performed a research fellowship in the lab of Jim Wells at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where he turned his focus to understanding mechanisms that regulate embryonic development of endoderm-derived tissue (pancreas, liver, intestine) and utilizing human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) to understand human differentiation and development. During this time, he pioneered efforts to generate 3-dimensional intestinal organoids from human pluripotent stem cells using an approach know as directed differentiation.
In October 2011, Dr. Spence joined the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School. The strengths and focus of the Spence lab include using mouse models to study embryonic development of GI and associated organs, and in using 3-dimensional human models to study human development and disease. The lab is currently pursuing projects aiming to understand intestinal development and function and also studies lung development, using mice and a new 3-dimensional human lung organoid model the Spence lab has recently described.
1) Developmental Biology
Using model organisms to understand mechanisms by which the embryo develops, with a focus on specification, differentiation and organogenesis of tissue derived from the endoderm.
2) Stem Cell Biology, Regenerative Medicine and Disease Modeling
Directing differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells into different endodermal lineages such that we may generate tissue for replacement therapies and discover novel in vitro methods to model and study human development and disease.