Susan Bonner-Weir, PhD
Harvard Medical School
With a series of rodent models Dr. Bonner-Weir has provided compelling evidence that adult pancreatic beta-cell mass increases in response to a metabolic need and have been examining the mechanisms of this postnatal pancreatic growth. After partial pancreatectomy, massive regeneration occurs with both enhanced replication of preexisting beta cells and ductal expansion and subsequent differentiation into endocrine, acinar or duct cells. She has shown that in the adult pancreas duct cells can act as pancreatic progenitors after regressing to a less differentiated cell similar to the embryonic pancreatic duct cell. Using the Cre-lox system for lineage tracing Dr. Bonner-Weir and colleagues have shown that mature duct cells serve as the progenitor for new islets and new acini after birth and after injury. They are further defining the cells and the factors involved. They have been successful in vitro cultivation of human islets from pancreatic ductal cells and are characterizing the cells that give rise to the new islets. Another project is to define the process of functional maturation of the beta cells by studying the physiological process that occurs postnatally.
Dr. Susan Bonner-Weir is Senior Investigator, Joslin Diabetes Center and Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Rice University and received her PhD in biology from Case Western Reserve University. For over twenty-five years she has focused on the endocrine pancreas (the islets of Langerhans) in three areas: 1) the architecture of the islet and its implications for function; 2) the in vivo regulation of beta-cell mass; and 3) the factors involved in islet growth and differentiation. Her focus now is how to make a reliable source of new beta-cells. She has published over 180 peer reviewed papers, and numerous chapters and reviews. Dr. Bonner-Weir has served on research grant review panels for the NIH, American Diabetes Association, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Danish National Research Council, the European Research Council, and the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine and on the editorial boards of Endocrinology, American Journal of Physiology, Diabetes, Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics, Cell Transplantation, and Journal of Biological Chemistry.