Yan Li, PhD

Associate Professor
Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences
School of Medicine

Dr. Yan Li has a multidisciplinary background in genomics, epigenetics, and stem cell biology. She received her Ph.D. in epigenetics and diabetes research from Beckman Research Institute, City of Hope. During her Ph.D. training, she studied the epigenetic regulation of inflammatory response in atherosclerosis, a common complication in diabetes. After graduation, Dr. Li joined Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, UCSD for postdoc training. She continued her research interests in the transcription regulation of inflammation and diabetes genes, but mainly using genomic approaches. Dr. Li joined the Department of Genetics and Genomics Sciences in 2015 and was promoted to associate professor in 2022.

Research Information

Research Interests

The Li lab integrates single cell genomic, functional genomic and stem cell technologies to study diabetes and islet biology. 

One of Li lab’s current research interests is to use single cell genomics to dissect the disease-associated cellular heterogeneity in human pancreatic islets. In human tissues, not only different cell types are present in a tissue, but the same cell type from the same person may also exist in different states depending on various factors such as environment, age, or disease state. The concept of cellular heterogeneity has been actively pursued in some diseases (e.g., cancer stem cell). However, the presence and disease relevance of cellular heterogeneity in non-proliferating cell types, such as pancreatic beta cells are not well studied. We are using single cell RNA-seq, single cell ATAC-seq, Hi-C, and CRISPR technologies to investigate this interesting question. 

The other major interest of Li lab is to use human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC) as a model for diabetes research and therapy. One major hope for diabetes therapy is to generate functional and transplantable beta-cells from patient-derived pluripotent cells. However, existing protocols are often unstable and variable between different hPSC lines, leading to highly heterogeneous cell population after differentiation. Again, we are trying to obtain a molecular understanding of this variation with single cell multi-OMIC integration, which may lead to better differentiation procedure. Due to the nature of our research, the Li lab is very interested in developing and testing low-input and single cell genomic approaches in stem cell and endocrine cell systems.  The works from Li lab frequently appear in high impact journals.

We are looking for talented students and postdocs! Please contact Dr. Li via yxl1379@case.edu if you are interested.

Visit the Li lab website for more information