The American Diabetes Association Research Foundation announced today its first ever Islet Cell Summit, taking place in Chicago, Illinois on Friday, April 8th. The Summit will convene seven of the world's leading researchers who have received ADA Islet Cell Replacement Research Awards and are currently about fifteen months into their three to four year projects. These research awards support investigators who are developing basic science, clinical and translational research focusing on islet (insulin-producing) cell replacement in type 1 diabetes. The work of these researchers could lead to procedures that would ultimately restore the body's ability to produce insulin.
The scientists' ongoing work reflects one of three major focus areas:
* Genetic engineering of non-pancreatic cells into glucose-sensitive, insulin-producing cells;
* Transforming stem cells or pancreatic ductal cells into insulin producing cells; and
* Transplanting non-human islet cells to restore normal glucose levels in people with diabetes, with particular focus on preventing rejection of these islets by the immune system.
The following researchers will be present to provide an update on their unique, but complementary projects:
Charles Burant, MD, PhD, University of Michigan: Using mice that have been genetically engineered for enhanced pancreatic cell growth, Dr. Burant is working on isolating adult islet stem cells to determine the best conditions for their growth and development into insulin producing cells. Once used to treat an animal model of type 1 diabetes, this same technique can be used to create human islets for transplantation.
Juan Dominguez-Bendala, PhD, Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine: Dr. Dominguez-Bendala is studying the embryonic development of the pancreas with the goal of recapitulating the process from stem cells in vitro. His work is based on a novel approach called protein transduction. This technology is used to progressively educate embryonic and pancreatic stem cells towards islet cell types, bypassing the complex signaling pattern that orchestrates the process in vivo. Dr. Dominguez-Bendala will be presenting data on behalf of the study's Principal Investigator, Luca Inverardi, MD.
Hengjiang Dong, PhD, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh: Dr. Dong is using genetic engineering techniques to encourage liver cells to produce insulin that can be readily released into the bloodstream. Dr. Dong will use the natural glucose and insulin response mechanisms in the liver to generate a regulated system in which insulin production is stimulated when blood sugar is high and suppressed when blood sugar is low.
Marc Garfinkel, MD, University of Chicago: Islet transplantation has been shown to be effective in treating type 1 diabetes, but human islets are in limited supply and are often rejected by the patient's immune system when transplanted. Dr. Garfinkel proposes to coat the transplanted cells in a unique gelatin-like material, a process called microencapsulation, to prevent the body from attacking the newly implanted cells.
Michael German, MD, University of California, San Francisco: By studying the development of beta cells during normal fetal development, Dr. German proposes to determine the minimal set of genes required to encourage beta cells to grow in the laboratory. If successful, his procedure could lead to a safe, renewable source of beta cells for people with diabetes.
Paul Robbins, PhD, University of Pittsburgh: Dr. Robbins has identified a type of cell located in the gut called a K-cell that may be able to respond to glucose and release insulin in a manner similar to islet cells. His research project will focus on identifying ways of transferring insulin genes to the K- cells in the gut in an effort to create a new source of insulin-secreting tissue as a treatment for diabetes.
Ji-Won Yoon, PhD, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science: Using gene therapy, Dr. Yoon will determine how a beta-cell growth factor can cause insulin-producing cells to replicate and then test the ability of a human hormone (human choriogonadotropin [hCG]) to prevent autoimmune attack of the newly developed cells in mice.
The ADA Islet Cell Replacement in Type 1 Diabetes Research Awards are funded in part by Cynthia and Edsel B. Ford, II of Grosse Pointe, Michigan and Arleen and Don Wagner of Venetia, Pennsylvania. The families have generously committed gifts of $1.3 million and $1 million, respectively to support the study of islet cell replacement. Both families became involved with raising funds for the Association after their children were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. In addition to their financial support, these families have also contributed countless hours as volunteers for the Association. Currently, Arleen Wagner serves as President of the ADA's Washington County, PA Council, Don Wagner is Chair of the ADA Research Foundation, Cynthia Ford is a member of the ADA Research Foundation's Board of Directors, and Edsel Ford chairs the Advisory Board of ADA's Advocacy Leadership Council.
"As parents of a child with type 1 diabetes, we have personally invested in these scientists and their promising research, knowing that their work brings us one step closer to life without diabetes for all those afflicted," said Don and Arleen Wagner. "This summit provides a unique opportunity to talk with and learn from those individuals who are truly making a difference."
The American Diabetes Association funds research aimed at preventing and curing diabetes, as well as research designed to help people with diabetes live longer, healthier, more normal lives. The goal of the ADA research program is to leverage its investment in research to achieve the greatest possible benefit for people with diabetes. In funding innovative studies such as those led by these investigators, the ADA Foundation supports projects that cover the spectrum of diabetes-related research.
Diabetes is a chronic disease and a silent killer. More than 18 million Americans have diabetes and approximately 1.3 million new cases are diagnosed each year. In 2003, diabetes cost the United States $132 billion, up from $98 billion in 1997. Type 1 diabetes develops when the body's immune system destroys pancreatic beta cells, the only cells in the body that make the hormone insulin that regulates blood glucose. This form of diabetes usually strikes children and young adults, although disease onset can occur at any age. Type 1 diabetes may account for 5% to 10% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. A major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, diabetes is also the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure and amputations.
The American Diabetes Association is the nation's premier voluntary health organization supporting diabetes research, information and advocacy. Founded in 1940, the Association has offices in every region of the country, providing services to hundreds of communities. The Association's commitment to research is reflected through its scientific meetings; education and provider recognition programs; and its Research Foundation and Nationwide Research Program, which fund breakthrough studies looking into the cure, prevention, and treatment of diabetes and its complications. For more information, please visit http://www.diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383). Information from both these sources is available in English and Spanish.
American Diabetes Association