Kahn, Steven Emanuel
Functional and morphological changes of the beta cell
General Research Subject: Type 2 Diabetes
Focus: Integrated Physiology\Insulin Secretion and Islet Hormones, Islet Biology\Apoptosis, Transplantation
Type of Grant: Mentor Based Postdoctoral Fellowship
Project Start Date: July 1, 2011
Project End Date: June 30, 2015
Steven Kahn has a long-standing record of successfully training young scientists in diabetes research. His laboratory performs both clinical and basic research designed to gain a better understanding of the role of the beta cell in the development of type 2 diabetes.
The ongoing clinical studies aim to determine, in individuals at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the ability of the beta cell to respond to changes in the demand for insulin release. This will increase our knowledge of why the beta cell is not able to adequately release insulin under a number of circumstances, resulting ultimately in the development of diabetes. The fellow will have the opportunity to learn a number of sophisticated approaches for measuring beta-cell function.
The basic research being undertaken by the group is related to the protein (amyloid) deposits occurring in the islet in patients with type 2 diabetes. The formation of these deposits is toxic, resulting in the death of beta cells and thus a reduced capacity to release insulin. The fellow will be able to participate in studies that address the mechanisms by which these deposits cause cell death and means by which these deposits may be prevented. In doing so, s/he will perform a variety of whole animal and cell-based studies using transgenic mice, islet transplants and cultured islets.
The fellow will participate in a variety of conferences within the University of Washington system, interact with local and visiting faculty, and use resources of major institutional diabetes-related programs.
Mentor: Kahn, Steven, MB, ChB Postdoctoral Fellow: Samarasekera, Tanya Suwanthie
What area of diabetes research does your project cover? What role will this particular project play in preventing, treating and/or curing diabetes?
Our research involves both clinical and basic science and is focused primarily on the islet beta cell and its role in the development of the hyperglycemia observed in type 2 diabetes.
For the clinical work we are performing work on individuals at increased risk of developing diabetes to determine how their beta cells adapt to increased secretory demand from increased glucose and insulin resistance and whether improving their beta cell function can improve other metabolic abnormalities these individuals have as part of their high risk state.
For the basic studies, we will use both in vivo and in vitro models to explore the mechanisms by which amyloid (protein) deposits in the islet induce cellular stress and inflammation and thereby produce cell damage. The goal is to develop means to prevent amyloid deposition and thus prevent cell death.
Why is it important for you, personally, to become involved in diabetes research?
Our studies will lead to a better understanding of the fundamental defects in the beta cell that lead to progressive deterioration in its function and the loss of insulin secretion. With this knowledge we hope to be able to develop approaches to slow or prevent the loss of insulin secretion and thus the development or progression of type 2 diabetes.
What role will this award play in your research efforts?
I have always enjoyed research and have had a long-standing interest in diabetes since I was a medical student. This mentor award is a very special award as it allows me to train young talented scientists for a future in diabetes research. Successfully doing so is very important for the future of scientific investigation and to improving our approaches to treat and ultimately prevent diabetes. Finally, successfully training the next generation of scientists provides personal satisfaction to me.
In what direction do you see the future of diabetes research going?
While a cure is of course the major objective, with our current state of knowledge I feel this a few more years off. In the meanwhile, we need to focus on a better understanding of the disease process and develop new and novel approaches to therapy.
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