University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Diabetes Mellitus - Induction of Insulin Biosynthesis and Release from Endocrine Progenitor Cells

Research Area

Grant Type



The goal of this grant is to explore novel strategies for the generation of a replenishable and stable source of transplantable, insulin-producing cells. We are pursuing two major strategies: developing the methods for coaxing certain pancreatic stem cells into becoming beta cells, and understanding how to differentiate human embryonic stem cells (precursors of all other cell types in the human body) into beta cells.

Our studies look at the biochemical and genetic signals that regulate how a primitive stem cell becomes a specialized cell and, specifically, the mechanisms that cause it to become a beta cell.

The research team, led by principal investigator, Alberto Hayek, MD, has many years of experience in designing novel approaches to understanding beta cell growth and differentiation. The other investigators in this grant are: Vincenzo Cirulli, MD, PhD, who is studying the molecular mechanisms regulating pancreatic islet cell development; Anthony Montgomery, PhD, who brings a unique expertise of the interaction of islet progenitors/stem cells with the extracellular environment and Theodore Friedmann, MD, PhD, who directs a Gene Expression Core with several objectives. These include the design of viral- and non-viral vectors following the introduction of a series of transcription factors that specify insulin synthesis, and the development of microarrays for gene expression analysis in progenitor endocrine cells.