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Islet Cell & Regenerative Biology

Investigators in this Section seek to understand how the emerging field of regenerative biology can be applied to repair or replace tissues that are damaged by diabetes, ranging from the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cell to the various tissues that are subject to complications.

This focus extends to understanding how diabetes influences the development and function of organs and tissues.  Several laboratories focus on studying the beta cell: its initial developmental specification, how it can be regenerated in the context of the developed pancreas, and how these cells might be replaced through stem-cell or induced-pluripotent (iPS) cell technologies (Bonner-Weir, Sharma, Weir).

The Blackwell lab studies the aging process, how it affects stem cells and developed tissues, and is influenced by insulin and other metabolic regulatory mechanisms. 

The Wagers lab studies the developmental potential of several stem cell lineages, particularly adult stem cell types, and seeks to elucidate general principles whereby stem cells maintain regenerative capacity and developmental plasticity. 

The Kulkarni lab studies the functions of differentiated pancreatic islet cells, with a particular focus on understanding mechanisms governing the beta cell proliferation. The Loeken lab investigates how the developing embryo is affected by maternal diabetes.

Recent “highpoints”:

  • Uncovered the importance of the transcription regulator MafA in pancreatic endocrine cell development, and demonstrated regeneration of pancreatic cells from differentiated precursors. Developmental Biology 2006 and 2009; PNAS 2008, Diabetologia 2011.
  • Discovery that insulin and related signals regulate a transcription regulatory pathway that defends against oxidative, proteotoxic, and other stresses. Cell, 2008.
  • Prospective isolation of regenerative skeletal muscle stem cells that can repair diseased tissue. Cell 2008.
  • Direct evidence was obtained for a role for insulin receptors in the intra-islet control of glucagon secretion from pancreatic alpha cells. Cell Metabolism 2009.
  • Improved microcapsular technology for protecting transplanted insulin-producing cells. Diabetologia 2010.
  • Pioneering the use of laser capture microdissection to determine the gene expression of beta cell enriched tissue obtained from frozen sections of pancreas from subjects with type 2 diabetes and from grafts of transplanted human islet tissue PLoSONE 2010 (two papers).

Page last updated: October 16, 2019