The Larry L. Hillblom Islet Genesis Network
The goal of this network is to understand how the insulin-producing β cells in the pancreas are generated and to apply this knowledge to the production of new β cells for people with diabetes. The Larry L. Hillblom Islet Genesis Network brings together three investigators and their research groups and applies their complimentary expertise to this problem. Although we normally have a limited capacity to generate new β cells after childhood, during pregnancy the β cell population expands substantially. Previously, we discovered how the placenta stimulates the expansion of the population of β cells and increase their sensitivity to glucose.
In an exciting new project, with the participation of a new member of the Network, Dr. Susan Fisher, a world expert on the biology of the placenta, we are testing whether placental exosomes — tiny packets of signaling molecules that are released by the placenta and circulate in the blood of pregnant women – regulate the β cells and could be utilized therapeutically to regenerate and enhance the β cells in people with diabetes. The current application focuses on these regenerative pathways because we believe that these pathways will provide new ways to replace β cells in people with diabetes. In addition, these studies will provide new insights into the causes of diabetes, and could potentially contribute to methods to prevent all three of the major forms of diabetes in the US (Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational Diabetes).