Michael Oertel, PhD
Assistant Professor of Pathology

Dr. Oertel is a member of the Division of Experimental Pathology.

Office Location:
Deptartment of Pathology
BST S-404
200 Lothrop St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Contact Information:
Office Telephone: 412-648-9727
Lab Telephone: 412-624-1309 or
Email Address: mio19@pitt.edu


  • Diploma - University of Leipzig, Germany, 1995
  • PhD - University of Leipzig, Germany, 2000

Research Interests

We will continue with our studies to identify and characterize activin A-producing cells in the hepatic microenvironment using immunohistochemical detection methods, as well as in-situ hybridization, and further study their role in activin A-mediated growth attenuation in vitro. We have established activin A-producing cell lines, which we are using in co-culture studies with isolated hepatocytes to investigate their growth-inhibitory effect on mature hepatic cells.

We are interested in determining the mechanism(s) of liver repopulation by transplanted epithelial stem/progenitor cells after cell transplantation. In these studies, we are collecting microdissected tissue samples derived from cell transplanted liver tissues using the latest generation of laser capture microdissection (LCM) system. We have modified the enzyme-histochemical detection method for DPPIV (the marker for transplanted cells in the host liver), which allows us to isolate non-degraded RNA after microdissection. To obtain detailed gene expression profiles of signaling pathways, that might be involved in augmented liver repopulation by transplanted stem/progenitor cells, we are analyzing amplified LCM-derived RNA using Affymetrix micro arrays.

Our studies are focused to determine the repopulation capacity and the therapeutic potential of epithelial stem/progenitor cells and hepatocytes transplanted into the recipient liver with advanced fibrosis/cirrhosis induced by TAA or biliary fibrosis following bile duct ligation. The aim is to identify essential characteristics of cells that effectively repopulate the liver and the tissue microenvironment conditions that foster repopulation by transplanted cells. We have demonstrated that intravenously transplanted stem/progenitor cells can significantly restore severely injured liver mass in an environment with advanced fibrosis/cirrhosis. In addition, we showed that progressive biliary fibrosis stimulates liver repopulation by ectopically transplanted cells, either hepatic epithelial stem/progenitor cells or mature hepatocytes. Since our studies demonstrated that biliary fibrosis stimulates hepatocyte transdifferentiation into biliary epithelial cells, we are investigating the process of reprogramming of hepatocytes to induce transdifferentiation.

Awards and Honors

  • 2000 - PhD, magna cum laude
  • 2008 - Fellow, 16th Annual Summer Training Course in Experimental Aging Research
  • 2008/10 - AFAR Research Grant

NIH Research

View Dr. Oertel's NIH RePORT on nih.gov

Selected Publications

View Dr. Oertel's previous publications on PubMed
  • Menthena A, Koehler C, Sandhu JS, Yovchev M, Hurston E, Shafritz DA, Oertel M. Activin A, p15INK4b signaling, and cell competition promote stem/progenitor cell repopulation of livers in aging rats. Gastroenterology 2011; 140: 1009-1020.
  • Yovchev MI, Dabeva MD, Oertel M. Isolation, characterization and transplantation of adult liver progenitor cells. Methods Mol Biol 2013; 976: 37-51.
  • Yovchev MI, Xue Y, Shafritz DA, Locker J, Oertel M. Repopulation of the fibrotic/cirrhotic rat liver by transplanted hepatic stem/progenitor cells and mature hepatocytes. Hepatology 2014; 59: 284-295.
  • Nishikawa T, Bellance N, Damm A, Bing H, Zhu Z, Handa K, Yovchev MI, Sehgal V, Moss TJ, Oertel M, Ram P, Pipinos II, Soto-Gutierrez A, Fox IJ, Nagrath D. A switch in the source of ATP production and a loss in capacity to perform glycolysis are hallmarks of hepatocyte failure in advance liver disease. J Hepatol 2014; 60: 1203-1211.
  • Delgado E, Okabe H, Preziosi M, Russell JO, Alvarado TF, Oertel M, Nejak-Bowen KN, Zhang Y, Monga SP. Complete response of CTNNB1-mutated tumors to ?-catenin suppression by locked nucleic antisense in mouse hepatocarcinogenesis model. J Hepatol 2015; 62: 380-387.
  • Yovchev MI, Locker J, Oertel M. Biliary fibrosis drives liver repopulation and phenotype transition of transplanted hepatocytes. J Hepatol 2016; doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2016.01.036.