Dr. Meritxell Huch is a Max Planck Research Group Leader at the Max Planck of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden. In 2007, she obtained her PhD degree in Gene Therapy at the Center for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, Spain and in 2008, she moved to the Netherlands to study Adult Stem Cells under the supervision of Professor Hans Clevers at the Hubrecht Institute. There, she isolated and cultured, for the first time, adult stomach stem cells and proved that these can be maintained and expanded in culture as gastric organoids, which formed the first “mini-stomachs” structures in vitro.
Following these studies, Meritxell Huch moved her research focus to the understanding of tissue progenitors during regeneration. Research that is still the focus of her independent lab and where she has made very important contributions to our understanding of development, regeneration and disease. She described that liver cells can be unlimitedly expanded in vitro as liver organoids, which can be used to model human liver biology and disease in a dish. In addition, she found that adult mouse pancreas cells can also be expanded long-term in vitro, an accomplishment never achieved before. In February 2014, she joined the Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge as a junior Group Leader, to start her own lab. In 2019, Meritxell Huch was awarded the first Lise Meitner excellence program award from the Max Planck Society and moved her lab to the Max Planck Institute in Dresden, where she continues her research on understanding tissue regeneration and its implication in disease. Since becoming independent, her lab has established the first human liver cancer organoid model that recapitulates liver cancer in a dish; has described that hepatoblasts are heterogenous and can be clonally expanded as hepatoblast organoids and that epigenetic remodelling, in the form of DNA (hydroxy)methylation changes, is crucial to induce cellular plasticity during regeneration. For these achievements, she has received several awards including the Women in Cell Science Prize from the British society, the EMBO young investigator award or the BINDER prize.