Diabetes Program

The HSCI Diabetes Program focuses on the central challenge of how to make beta cells that could be used to treat diabetes. The problem is tackled in three different ways: producing new beta cells via reprogramming of other adult cell types such as liver cells, turning human embryonic stem cells into beta cells, and finally by increasing the normally slow rate of cell division of adult beta cells.

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Key Research Questions

The HSCI Diabetes Program employs the use of small molecule screens, cell derivation, "humanized mouse" models, and iPS cells from patients to answer the following questions:

  • How can human embryonic stem cells be turned into beta cells, and how can these derived beta cells be stimulated to replicate and differentiate so that they can be transplanted into patients?
  • What are the molecular causes of the initiation and continuation of the immune attack on beta cells in type 1 diabetes?

Key Scientific Results

Scientific findings from the HSCI Diabetes Program include:

  • The use of small molecules to efficiently direct human embryonic stem cells toward becoming pancreatic beta cells.
  • The initial characterization of the proteome, or set of proteins, expressed in mouse pancreatic islets.
  • The definition of the genes involved in partitioning the endoderm tissue, which includes the liver, pancreas, and intestine into organs.
  • The elaboration of the transcriptional control of the late stages of beta cell development.