Saltiel, Alan R., PhD
Cell biology of insulin action
General Research Subject: Type 2 Diabetes
Focus: Insulin Action\Signal Transduction
Type of Grant: Mentor Based Postdoctoral Fellowship
Project Start Date: July 1, 2007
Project End Date: June 30, 2015
Insulin is the most potent anabolic hormone known, promoting the synthesis and storage of fat, carbohydrates and proteins, and blocking their breakdown and release into the circulation. Although numerous pathways have been implicated in the action of insulin on cells, few appear to be sufficiently specific to carry out the hormone's unique role in glucose and lipid metabolism. Our laboratory is investigating in detail the molecules in cells that account for these special properties of insulin. One important question concerns the importance of these pathways in disorders of glucose and lipid metabolism. Type 2 diabetes is associated with insulin resistance, a common disorder in which patients do not respond to normal circulating concentrations of insulin. The precise function of these pathways and their roles in the pathogenesis of diabetes are under investigation, with the goal of developing new therapeutic approaches to the treatment of diabetes and related disorders. Our research is divided into five areas: 1) early events in signaling from the insulin receptor; 2) the role of signaling molecules called G proteins in controlling the uptake of sugar into cells; 3) the function of a specialized complex of proteins called the exocyst in determining how proteins find specific locations in cells; 4) mechanisms involved in the ability of insulin to store sugars as starch in muscle and liver; and 5) exploring inflammatory links between obesity and diabetes. Each of these areas is focused on gaining a more complete understanding of the cell biology of insulin’s actions.
Mentor: Alan Saltiel, PhD Postdoctoral Fellow: Binbin Lu, PhD
What area of diabetes research does your project cover? What role will this particular project play in preventing, treating and/or curing diabetes?
My project investigates various insulin signaling pathways that are directly linked to diabetes. This disease is caused by specific physiological failures to produce or respond to insulin. By understanding the cell biology of what goes wrong in these signaling pathways, we can develop new ways to tackle this illness.
If a person with diabetes were to ask you how your project will help them in the future, how would you respond?
My research might contribute towards the development of new treatments for diabetes.
Why is it important for you, personally, to become involved in diabetes research? What role will this award play in your research efforts?
Many of my extended family members are diabetic, so I have been exposed to the physical effects of the disease for much of my life. I have studied the basic physiology behind the illness and, having received this award, I now have the opportunity to expand my understanding of diabetes on a molecular level. I would love to pursue a career in medicine to better the lives of those who are ill and to live a life of continuous learning. Through my research, I have been awarded this chance.
In what direction do you see the future of diabetes research going?
Hopefully, new understandings in genetics and cell biology can eventually be applied to diabetic ailments on a physiological level.
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