Diabetes Basic Science Research

Basic science research in biochemistry and immunology provides the foundation that drives the development of new therapies for diabetes and other endocrine diseases. The Division of Developmental & Translational Diabetes and Endocrine Research and the Division of Molecular Diabetes Research are conducting a number of important basic science research programs, including those described below:
Heart and kidney complications of diabetes
Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure and a significant risk factor for the development of coronary disease. In fact, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in people with diabetes and accounts for nearly half of all diabetes-related deaths. Our researchers are studying mechanisms of atherosclerosis and kidney disease in diabetic animal models and humans. The focus of this research is to develop protective strategies for preventing and reversing these complications.
Controlling complications
One mechanism for the development of diabetes complications is the changes in protein and fat structure of body tissues as a result of increased attachment of glucose to these tissue structures, a process known scientifically as the formation of advanced glycation endproducts, or "AGEs." AGE formation has also been found to accelerate the aging process and may contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease. City of Hope researchers have developed novel compounds that inhibit glycation and AGE formation and are currently testing their safety and effectiveness in preventing diabetes complications and delaying the tissue aging process. Some of these compounds can also break existing AGEs and could therefore potentially reverse existing tissue damage induced by diabetes. 
New molecular discoveries
City of Hope researchers have discovered the molecular mechanisms underlying the body's main method of metabolizing and destroying cholesterol. This research may open the door for new drug therapies for patients with abnormally high cholesterol levels, atherosclerosis and diabetes. These researchers also discovered a fat-derived hormone called androstanol that reverses or halts gene activity in the cell nucleus. The discovery of androstanol is expected to transform our current understanding of metabolic diseases and aid the development of future therapies.
Current research programs performed by scientists in the Division of Developmental & Translational Diabetes and Endocrine Research and the Division of Molecular Diabetes Research:
Ismail Al-Abdullah, Ph.D.: Islet cell isolation.
Sanjay Awasthi, M.D.: Diabetes and cancer.
Kevin Ferreri, Ph.D.: Islet cell transplantation, epigenetics, and diabetic biomarkers.
Wendong Huang, Ph.D.: Genetic and epigenetic regulation of diabetes. Stem cell and drug development for diabetes.
Janice Huss, Ph.D.: Characterization of transcriptional mechanisms regulating skeletal muscle metabolic adaptations during growth and differentiation and in response to physiologic stress, and the etiologic role of orphan nuclear receptors in obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Fouad R. Kandeel, M.D., Ph.D.: Islet cell transplantation.
Hsun Teresa Ku, Ph.D.: In vitro differentiation of human and mouse embryonic stem cells towards pancreatic lineage cells. Identification, purification and characterization of embryonic and adult pancreatic stem/progenitor cells.
Chih-Pin Liu, Ph.D.: Development of methods to induce immune tolerance.Identification of novel cellular and molecular targets to improve cell-based therapy for diabetes.
Yoko Mullen, M.D., Ph.D.: Extrahepatic islet transplantation. Prevention of islet loss for transplantation.
Rama Natarajan, Ph.D.: Identification of the molecular mechanisms underlying the accelerated cardiovascular and renal disease observed in diabetic patients, role of epigenetics and microRNAs, and inflammatory responses in islet destruction.
Ivan Todorov, Ph.D.: Islet cell proliferation, differentiation and cryopreservation. Aging in the human pancreas.
Defu Zeng, M.D.: Induction of immune tolerance towards transplanted islets.