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Elena Toschi, M.D. Joins the Adult Diabetes Clinic to Focus on Providing Care for Patients with Type 1 Diabetes

Friday, December 19, 2014

Get to Know: Elena Toschi, M.D., Staff Physician in the Section of Adult Diabetes, who works with patients with type 1 diabetes in the clinic.


Let’s discuss your background – how did you become interested in diabetes care?

I have been interested in diabetes ever since I was in medical school. I like medicine as whole, but I could not pick a specialty that focused on one organ versus another. Diabetes affects the whole body: from the tip of your toes to the top of your head.  My interest has been to understand the different mechanisms that can alter glucose metabolism and energy balance.  Immediately after graduating from medical school in Italy, I worked in a metabolic unit where I participated in clinical research in the field of metabolic and vascular actions of insulin. From there I moved to Joslin and I worked as a post-doc in Dr. Bonner-Weir’s lab on replication and regeneration of pancreatic beta cells.

Is there a specific area of diabetes care that you are most interested in?

I am most fascinated by the metabolism. I am especially interested by how hormones, and particularly insulin and glucagon, are secreted in such a tightly controlled way and govern so many of our bodies’ functions.

What research did you focus on during your fellowship at Joslin?

I worked in Dr. Maratos-Flier’s lab. One of the main interests of Dr. Maratos-Flier’s lab is FGF21, a relatively newly discovered hormone that has multiple effects on glucose and lipid metabolism. I worked mostly on a translational research study where we evaluated the effect of dietary sugars on regulation of plasma FGF21 level in human subjects. The administration of fructose alone or a combination of glucose and fructose -- similar to what it is contained in a can of Pepsi -- acutely and robustly increases FGF21 levels. The data was accepted in Molecular Metabolism,  and the New York Times Health section wrote an article on it in early October.

You have also worked with Dr. Bonner-Weir, can you tell me about what you worked on together?

I worked in Dr. Bonner-Weir ‘s lab for about five years. I went from clinical to basic science research, which was a great learning experience. My research project focused on finding markers for newly formed beta-cells. We also investigated the metabolic differences between neonatal and adult islets.  During this time I decided to remain in Boston and I became accredited to practice medicine in the US. Along the way, Dr. Bonner-Weir has been a great mentor both for science and life; without her support I would never have achieved so much.

Having worked at Joslin in several capacities during your career, what is your favorite aspect of Joslin?

What I like most about being at Joslin is, no matter what role you play, you contribute to the mission of improving the lives of people with diabetes and you have the possibility of performing research that will lead to prevention and cure of the disease. It has been a great pleasure and honor to be working at Joslin, first with Dr. Bonner-Weir and now with Dr. Wolpert. I am looking forward to continuing working here and contributing to improve the lives of people with diabetes.


Page last updated: June 19, 2019