Targeting the beta cell for Diabetes therapy
In healthy people, blood glucose levels are tightly controlled by insulin, a hormone produced by beta cells in the pancreas. When the blood glucose elevates (for example, after eating food), insulin is released from the pancreas to lower the glucose level. In type 1 diabetes, beta cells are destroyed by one’s own immune system. In type 2 diabetes, insulin secretion from beta cells is insufficient and beta cells are gradually lost due to the toxic effects of fats, high glucose levels and build-up of toxic amyloid deposits in the pancreas. Dr. Verchere’s research is focused on understanding how beta cells normally function in health, and what goes wrong in diabetes. He is investigating why toxic islet amyloid deposits form and how they kill beta cells, as well as how immune cells kill beta cells in type 1 diabetes. He is also looking at ways to protect transplanted beta cells from immune destruction. His long-term goal is to develop novel therapies that enhance beta cell survival and function in type 1 and type 2 diabetes.