From the Chief Scientific Officer
Only a multi-disciplinary approach, such as that found in the Research Division at Joslin Diabetes Center, can fully explore the most promising pathways to prevent, treat and cure type 1 and type 2 diabetes and their complications. For diabetes is not a single disease, but rather a complex problem caused by multiple genes and environmental factors that call for scientists to attack it from many perspectives.
Our investigators, who engage in both basic and clinical research across the sections into which the Research Division is organized, are advancing science at an unusually fast pace due to Joslin’s unique environment. What sets us apart is our critical mass of researchers whose focus is diabetes and our one-of-a-kind resources that facilitate rapid scientific progress.
For example, Joslin’s Diabetes Research and Endocrinology Research Center (DERC) provides the infrastructure necessary to support research efforts across all the disciplines and encourage the development of young scientists. The DERC offers researchers specialized technical assistance as well as a network of colleagues from across the medical and scientific community. The DERC framework facilitates translational research—that is, the collaboration between basic scientists and clinical investigators—resulting in breakthroughs that make a difference to the millions of people living with diabetes.
These types of collaborations offer an incredibly rich setting in which to work, and provide a significant asset to our researchers. Two other important examples are our affiliations with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, which enables Joslin researchers to work with investigators with complementary interests and expertise through such programs as the Harvard Stem Cell Institute; the Clinical Islet Transplantation Program at Harvard Medical School; and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Center on Immunological Tolerance in Type 1 Diabetes.
But perhaps it is the collaborations that occur within the walls of Joslin that most often give rise to the important questions that stimulate thinking and drive progress toward cure and prevention of diabetes. Here at Joslin, independent thinking and creativity are valued and supported because we recognize these are the ingredients that lead to greater understanding and discovery. Researchers have the opportunity to exchange ideas and challenge one another in a setting that nurtures teamwork and allows for the unpredictability of research. The scientific process requires a multi-disciplinary team approach like the one found at Joslin Diabetes Center.
Where else could you gather the experts necessary to understand why some people who have lived with type 1 diabetes for 50 years do not have complications? Joslin’s 50-Year Medalist Study is an example of the unique relationship between clinical researchers at Joslin and their colleagues who specialize in genetics, biochemistry and cell biology. The discovery that many of the 50-Year Medalists still have insulin-producing islet cells now requires an even broader course of action.
Certainly tackling the complexity of diabetes complications, such as cardiovascular, kidney and eye disease, warrants a comprehensive and creative approach. Where else could you find a database of biological and psychological data from patients with diabetes, stretching back decades? Joslin Clinic records have been invaluable in studying how complications develop and progress over time. Genetics researchers at Joslin are studying what changes in the genes make people with diabetes susceptible to these complications. Other investigators focus on the impact of insulin on blood vessels. And still others specialize in the molecular mechanisms that lead to long-term complications.
Or consider the mystery of islet failure in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. At Joslin, groups of investigators who specialize in different disciplines collaborate: researchers from the Integrative Physiology and Metabolism Section who focus on insulin action on islet survival; scientists from the Islet Cell and Regenerative Biology Section who study islet growth and action along with the regeneration of cells; and experts from the Immunobiology Section who study autoimmune responses.
Moving Forward As Never Before
This is an extraordinary time for diabetes research at Joslin Diabetes Center. From discoveries in basic research to testing drugs in clinical trials, Joslin investigators are using their knowledge, experience and cutting-edge technology to move us forward as never before. To extend the reach of our work, Joslin investigators not only partner with their colleagues down the hall and in the Harvard community, but work with scientists across the globe. We are committed to conquering diabetes in all of its forms and will continue to lead the scientific community on new pathways of discovery in diabetes.
“What sets Joslin research apart is our critical mass of researchers whose focus is diabetes and our one-of-a-kind resources that facilitate rapid scientific progress.”
--George L. King, M.D., Research Director & Chief Scientific Officer