Engineering probes and assays for monitoring islet beta cell mass or function in vivo

Diabetes is becoming a worldwide health problem affecting more than 350 million people. The lesion in islet beta cells represents a primary cause of diabetes. While it has been recognized that both defects in beta cell function and loss in beta cell mass can occur during prediabetes, it remains challenging to assess each of these two parameters separately in vivo. We are engineering new probes for beta cell labeling, aiming to develop methods for monitoring changes in islet beta cell mass or function over time. Once developed, such assays would have the potential for clinical applications to follow the progression of the disease and to assess the efficacy of therapeutic strategies designed to restore beta cell mass or function. 

 

Physiological regulation of hormone secretion in pancreatic islets

Proper regulation of hormone secretion in pancreatic islets is essential for maintaining glucose homeostasis. We are interested in understanding mechanisms governing stimulus-secretion coupling in islet cells using a combination of approaches including cell biology, biochemistry and imaging.

 

Functional analysis of microRNA

microRNAs are small, non-coding RNAs ~ 22 nucleotides in length. A specific microRNA can have multiple target mRNAs, and can perform diverse roles in development, physiology and/or disease. Because of their complex involvement in numerous pathways and in different cell types, it is important to identify the targets of a given microRNA in specific cell types and under specified conditions. We are developing a new method, TargetLink, to achieve this goal.