Diabetes Program Accomplishments & History

Islet Slide
City of Hope has one of the most influential diabetes research programs in the world. Our scientists’ work has revolutionized the understanding and treatment of the disease and continues today with exciting developments in cell transplantation, gene regulation, immune tolerance and gaining systemic understanding of diabetes as a complex, multifaceted disease.
Our institute's accomplishments include:
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.
Insulin-mediating proteins
In 1982, Yoko Fujita-Yamaguchi, Ph.D., isolated specific cell proteins that interact with insulin and mediate its metabolic effects, increasing scientific understanding of how insulin work in cells.
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.

Dr. Natarajan's 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.
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.
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.

Program History and Milestones

1949: Dr. Rachmiel Levine discovers the metabolic effects of insulin
1968: Dr. Samuel Rahbar discovers HgbA1c and its role diabetes management
1971: City of Hope establishes the Division of Diabetes
1978: Drs. Arthur Riggs and Keiichi Itakura first engineer human insulin in the laboratory
1982: Dr. Yoko Fujita-Yamaguchi isolates specific cell proteins that join with insulin and mediate its metabolic effects
Late 1980s: City of Hope enchances the Clinical Diabetes Care Program
1991: City of Hope establishes the Diabetes Education Program
1992: City of Hope establishes the Diabetes & Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Program
1993: Drs. Rama Natarajan and Jerry Nadler conduct seminal research dealing with diabetic complications and islet cell dysfunction
1993: Inaugural Community Diabetes Symposium held
1994: City of Hope establishes the Male Sexual Medicine Program
1997: Inauguration of Leslie & Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Diabetes & Genetic Research Center
1997: Dr. Barry Forman identifies molecules that promote fat cell formation and affect insulin resistance in patients with type 2 diabetes
2000: Inaugural International Rachmiel Levine Symposium on Diabetes and Obesity Research
2001: City of Hope establishes the Southern California Islet Consortium
2004: Dr. Fouad Kandeel leads first islet cell transplantation at City of Hope
2003-2007: City of Hope's is the first program in the nation to train an endocrinologist as an islet transplant physician under UNOS regulations
2011: Expansion of the Gonda Center more than doubles the available scientific space for diabetes research
2014: City of Hope establishes the Diabetes & Metabolic Research Institute, integrating basic, translational and clinical research with innovative care and comprehensive education
2017: The Wanek Family Project for Type 1 Diabetes is established