The PDRC is delighted to announce that Maike Sander received three 2011 Transformative Collaborative Project Awards from the NIH-funded Beta Cell Biology Consortium, totaling more than $2,000,000. Dr. Sander will lead one project and participate as a collaborator in two others. All three projects will help the consortium reach its ultimate goal of providing cell-based therapies to help those living with type 1 and severely progressed type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Sander will lead a project that will develop enhancer-based beta cell programming strategies. Collaborators on the project are Bing Ren, Ph.D., also from UC San Diego in the Department of Cellular & Molecular Medicine, and Klaus Kaestner, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania.
Scientists have discovered that a small component of a cell's genome called an enhancer plays an important role in guiding the cell into its ultimate, specialized cell type. Dr. Sander and her colleagues plan to identify pancreas and beta cell specific enhancers. They can then create an important tool for optimizing the "supply chain" of functional, transplantable beta cells. As an added benefit, this tool will also allow scientists to track the progress of beta cells after they have been transplanted.
The other two projects Dr. Sander's lab will participate in involve the 3-D growth of pancreatic beta cells from human pluripotent stem cells and the investigation of new permissive environments for beta cell engraftment. The 3-D growth project involves creating structures that are similar to the fields of tissue in the embryo where the pancreas develops, to see if beta cell reprogramming and development is improved in this new context. The investigation of sites for beta cell engraftment aims to increase the number of viable areas in the body where beta cells may be successfully transplanted.