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Notables 2021

Monika Bambouskova, PhD was awarded a Diabetes Research Center Pilot & Feasibility grant. This award will support research aiming to map metabolic changes in tissue resident immune cells in obesity. In this project, we will utilize single cell metabolic analysis to characterize the metabolic state of individual immune cells isolated from various tissues. The outcomes of this work will help us to understand factors leading to obesity-associated inflammation. ($40,000)

Cynthia Herrick, MD, FACP has received a grant from the Longer Life Foundation. The research project is titled: “Clinic to Community Connections: Type 2 Diabetes Prevention among Low-Income Women with Gestational Diabetes.” ($50,000)

Jing Hughes, MD, PhD was awarded an NIH R03. The Hughes lab will use advanced microscopy techniques to identify whether primary cilia in human pancreas are altered in type 1 diabetes. These studies represent the first attempt to examine human islet cilia in T1D and will inform mechanisms of dysregulated islet-immune crosstalk that occurs in disease. ($200,000)

Xuntian Jiang, PhD has received an NIH B2B sub award with University of Pennsylvania. Niemann-Pick disease type C (NPC) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease caused by accumulation of cholesterol in neurons due to deficient cholesterol transporter (NPC1 or NPC2). In this bench to bedside award supported project, efavirenz will be studied as a new treatment for NPC1 in cat model at U Penn and patients at NIH. Efavirenz is an antiretroviral agent approved for pediatric use and has recently been shown to reduce neuronal cholesterol accumulation in NPC1 mice. To support this translational study, we will analyze pharmacodynamic biomarkers, including 24-hydroxycholesterol, a metabolite of brain cholesterol, and other NPC1 lipid markers such as N-palmitoyl-O-phosphocholineserine, gangliosides GM2 and GM3. ($33,000)

Jeffrey Millman, PhD has received a partnership grant award from JDRF. The Millman Lab will be partnering with the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute. Diabetes is caused by the loss of healthy insulin-secreting islets in the pancreas. We have previously developed a strategy for generating islets from human pluripotent stem cells in the laboratory that can reverse diabetes in mice after transplantation. However, this process is requires over a month of cell culture and meticulous handling almost every day. Such highly manual work is prone to human error and cannot scale to keep up with ongoing demand of these cells for research and therapy. To overcome these limitations, we are completely automating the production process for generating islets from stem cells. Success of this project will fill in the gap between the fabrication of these cells and the use of them in research by making reliable, well-characterized islets available on a large scale. ($1,900,000)

Jeffrey Millman, PhD was awarded an NIH R01 which is a multi-PI grant with Dr. Hubert Tse (University of Alabama –Birmingham), and Dr. Clayton Mathews (University of Florida). Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease caused by the loss of insulin-secreting islet cells. This disease requires genetic susceptibility, immune cell interactions, and environmental triggers, such as viral infections. One viral infection highly correlated with type 1 diabetes is Coxsackievirus B (CVB) serotype. Cells are able to detect when they have been infected with this virus by a protein named melanoma differentiation-associated protein 5 (MDA5). Mutations in the gene encoding MDA5 is highly associated with increased risk of type 1 diabetes. The purpose of this grant is to use stem cell-derived islet organoids to study the relationship with macrophages and mutations in the gene encoding MDA5. We wish to understand how this contributes to type 1 diabetes susceptibility. These islet organoids will be generated from patients with type 1 diabetes, CRISPR will be used to correct mutations in the gene encoding MDA5, and disease-on-a-dish approaches will be used to facilitate this study. ($900,000)

Rong Mei Zhang, MD received the 2021 Dean’s Scholars award. The Dean’s Scholars program supports outstanding individuals committed to a career as a physician-scientist. Dr. Zhang’s project is titled “Acute hyperglycemia promotes a proinflammatory monocyte phenotype to drive podocyte injury.”
Dean’s Scholars