Ernesto Bernal-Mizrachi, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine and of Cell Biology and Physiology
Dr. Bernal-Mizrachi received his M.D. from Universidad del Valle in 1989 in Cali, Colombia. After doing two years of training in internal medicine at the Universidad del Valle, he moved to University of Miami Jackson Memorial Hospital where he finished his Internal Medicine Training (1996). Dr. Bernal-Mizrachi then moved to Washington University for a Fellowship in Endocrinology (1996-1999). He started his academic career as junior faculty (2000-2004) and is currently an Assistant Professor of Medicine.
Pancreatic insulin producing cells (β-cells) regulate blood glucose levels by secreting appropriate amounts of insulin. It is now clear that in the abnormalities found in type 1 and type 2 diabetes, decrease in the number and function of insulin producing cells is a common event. The number of β-cells is variable and can be adjusted to produce more insulin to supply increased demands. Proliferation of mature β-cells is critical for maintenance of β-cell mass in adult mice. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms that govern proliferation of β-cells will provide important information to protect, prevent and cure diabetes. The long-term goal of Dr Bernal-Mizrachi’s research program is to determine the signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms involved in the regulation of β-cell mass. This is expected to positively affect treatment of human diabetes, because it would allow uncovering potential targets to develop new pharmacologic agents designed to augment survival and proliferation of β-cells in vivo and in vitro.
The Edmonton protocol for islet transplantation can successfully be used as therapeutic option for type 1 diabetics. Thus, a potential cure for diabetes is possible, given a sufficient supply of pancreas. Despite this remarkable success rate, the severe shortage of islets and post transplant functional islet graft failure limit islet transplantation for the vast majority of patients with diabetes. The overall goal of this area is to study the signaling pathways that regulate the differentiation program of pancreas. This work will attempt to increase the pool of pancreatic and endocrine progenitors by activating self-renewal and proliferation of progenitor cells. These studies could lead to identification of potential targets for novel therapeutic approaches that could increase the generation of β-cells in vivo and in vitro. These experiments will potentially produce cells that could be used in the transplantation model. Another approach to the limited amount of tissue for transplantation is the development of pharmacological agents that expand β-cells in vivo and in vitro and resist injury. The compounds generated in Dr Bernal-Mizrachi laboratory are expected to positively affect treatment of human diabetes, because these compounds facilitate overcoming some of the obstacles experienced in the widespread application of islet transplantation.