Maike Sander, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and cellular & molecular medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has been awarded nearly $5 million by the Beta Cell Biology Consortium (BCBC) to lead an interdisciplinary team in cell therapy research for type 1 diabetes. Sander will lead a team of domestic and international collaborators, with the aim of generating replacement insulin-producing beta cells from patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells.
Maike Sander, MD
The $4,950,000 grant is shared with Karl Willert, PhD, director of the UCSD Human Stem Cell Core Facility, who will apply a screening platform for cellular microenvironments to beta cell differentiation (the process by which cells become progressively more specialized). Additional participants include labs at the University of Pennsylvania and in Barcelona, Spain, as well as a San Diego-based biotech company.
Sander is a physician-scientist with UCSD’s Pediatric Diabetes Research Center (PDRC). Launched the summer of 2008, the PDRC brings together top-ranked physicians and research scientists to investigate the causes and cure of type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age; however, half of the patients are diagnosed before the age of 20. Though the exact cause is unknown, genetics, viruses, and environmental factors are thought to play a role in causing the autoimmune response that eventually leads to beta cell destruction.
The major focus of Sander’s current research is to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the ability of pluripotent stem cells, or progenitor cells, to produce the different cell types of the pancreas. Specifically, she and her team want to be able to instruct patient-derived pluripotent stem cells to become beta cells.
Since the first pioneering work on islet transplantation, it has become clear that a cell-based approach for the treatment of type 1 diabetes can have significant benefits in terms of insulin independence and a reduced risk of hypoglycemia.
“Right now, scientists can create pancreatic progenitor cells from human embryonic stem cells. However, our goal is to take it a step further and make replacement beta cells from the patient’s own tissue,” Sander said. “This grant is a perfect example of collaboration and translational medicine for a greater cause. It’s not about who discovers the cure first. It’s about finding a cure – fast.”
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About Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age. However, half of the patients are diagnosed before the age of 20. The exact cause is unknown. Genetics, viruses, and environmental factors are thought to play a role in causing the autoimmune response that eventually leads to beta cell destruction.
About the UCSD Pediatrics Diabetes Research Center (PDRC)
In order to provide the San Diego community with the best medical education and pediatric care, the UC San Diego School of Medicine and Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego joined in a special partnership in 2009 to conduct clinical education and pediatric care from the Rady Children’s Hospital campus and clinics. Currently, physicians from UC San Diego and Rady Children’s Hospital treat more than 1,000 children with type 1 diabetes every year.
Optimizing UC San Diego’s strengths in clinical care and research, the Pediatrics Diabetes Research Center seeks to fuel its combined effort to prevent, cure, and treat diabetes.
ABOUT THE BETA CELL BIOLOGY CONSORTIUM
The BCBC was created by NIH/NIDDK to advance development of a cell-based therapy for diabetes through collaborative and interdisciplinary research.
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Media Contact: Debra Kain,