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Research unit director

Both Type I and Type II diabetes involve abnormalities in energy homeostasis occurring at the cellular level. In particular, the uncontrolled production of insulin within the pancreas and destruction of the hormone-producing islets are central mechanisms in the pathogenesis of this disease. The impact of diabetes on overall health is well characterized; however, the initiating signals and steps within affected cells that lead to the pathology remain poorly understood at the molecular level. Consequently, biomarkers that reliably detect early islet dysfunction do not currently exist, limiting our ability to predict disease development prior to symptom appearance.

Using genetic models, biochemistry, proteomics, and global gene network analysis, Dr. Jennifer Estall will focus on identifying key molecules implicated in the onset of islet dysfunction and in the transition to islet destruction during the development of metabolic diseases. Her goal is to determine a molecular signature of the changes occurring in the pancreas over the course of disease progression. This information will:

  1. help to identify new factors and genetic programs important for islet function;
  2. allow us to understand the changes that occur within the diseased pancreas; and
  3. reveal new therapeutic targets in an effort to prevent or lessen disease progression.
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