The overall goal of my laboratory is to identify and characterize novel molecular regulators of functional beta cell mass in vitro and extrapolate this work to the in vivo setting. For the proposed work we are particularly interested in the endogenous feedback inhibitor of EGFR Mig6 (a.k.a. errfi1, Gene 33, or RALT). The proposed work evolved out of experiments conducted as part of my K99/R00 award, which has helped us define the roles of molecular brakes and accelerators of beta cell proliferation. We have validated, in the context of the beta cell, that Mig6 blocks replication. Interestingly, we have discovered that molecular brakes for proliferation such as Mig6 can also impair beta cell survival as well as function. Thus, Mig6 can be classified as a multi-regulator of functional beta cell mass.
My training as a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Christopher Newgard’s laboratory provided a solid foundation for investigating islet biology, and my doctoral work in Dr. David Wasserman’s laboratory established my expertise with in vivo experimentation. My laboratory currently consists of one research analyst and three graduate students; we are actively recruiting a post-doctoral fellow for this project. Thus, we have adequate personnel to perform the proposed studies. In addition, I work within a group of five islet biology labs within a larger pediatric research center utilizing a variety of model systems and equipped with all of the tools needed to study islet biology both in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, I have a personal commitment to diabetes research as myself and two brothers have type 1 diabetes, and I have been involved with camps for children with diabetes for over 30 years. I use this passion and absolute commitment to fuel my efforts in the laboratory.