Accomplishments in Diabetes Research
City of Hope researchers have built the foundation of scientific knowledge upon which the understanding and treatment of diabetes are based.
 
Engineering synthetic insulin

In the late 1970s,  Arthur Riggs , Ph.D., and Keiichi Itakura, Ph.D., produced synthetic human insulin using bacteria. It became the first genetically engineered product approved by the Food and Drug Administration and today is used worldwide by millions of people with diabetes. The breakthrough made insulin more available and affordable and helped launch the biotechnology industry.
City of Hope researchers have made numerous breakthoughs, including in islet-cell transplantation and in the understanding of islet dysfunction.
 
Perfecting islet transplantation protocols

Fouad Kandeel , M.D., Ph.D., perfected clinical islet-cell transplantation protocols and has developed imaging methods that enable physicians to more monitor in real time the health of islets after transplantation.
 
Targeting diabetic complications

Rama Natarajan , Ph.D., and Jerry Nadler, M.D., conducted research dealing with diabetic complications and islet dysfunction. Their work has led to the identification of novel therapeutic targets and agents for the treatment of diabetic complications. Natarajan was also the first to demonstrate the role of epigenetics in diabetic vascular inflammation and in the metabolic memory phenomenon.

Her laboratory was also the first to demonstrate how microRNAs (small, non-coding RNAs) can cause the overproduction of collagen, which creates damage that can lead to kidney abnormalities and renal dysfunction. She used therapeutic interventions to block these microRNAs, slowing the cells’ harmful overproduction of collagen and other proteins and kidney damage.
 
 
Diagnosing type 1 diabetes sooner

Kevin Ferreri , Ph.D., has developed a new method of diagnosing type 1 diabetes. His research team detected unique markings on the DNA of insulin-producing cells. When these cells die during the progression of type 1 diabetes, the markings can be detected on DNA that circulates in the blood. This method can be used to diagnose type 1 diabetes before complications and can be used to test the effectiveness of new treatments.

To read about more of City of Hope researchers’ accomplishments, including the 1940s discovery by Rachmiel Levine, M.D., of insulin’s role in processing sugars, read our Diabetes Program History page.