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Steven Chessler and Arthur Suckow Receive Patent for Beta-Cell Protein Markers

Steven Chessler

PDRC physician-scientist Dr. Steven Chessler and former PDRC graduate student and project scientist Dr. Arthur Suckow received a patent from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on processes that will help diagnose and treat diabetes. The processes relate directly to a unique set of proteins found on the surface of insulin-secreting beta cells, but not on other islet indocrine cells.

Scientists use discoveries like this to create drugs that will affect only one very specific type of cell. (Think of the proteins as signs showing medicines exactly where to go.) The only other place the proteins identified by Dr. Chessler's lab can be found is in the brain. Because of the separation of regular blood flow from the brain called the blood-brain barrier, drugs introduced to the blood stream to target these proteins on beta cell surfaces will not affect the brain.

Down the road, this will provide a handy way for scientists to "mark" beta cells when trying to measure how many beta cells a person with type 1 diabetes has. Consider a tool in a doctor's office like an MRI machine that can precisely count beta cells.

The proteins identified by Dr. Chessler's lab are important for their use in allowing adjacent cells to coordinate their function. Dr. Chessler also examines the role they play in cell development. In the brain, these proteins help neurons develop into cells that secrete neurotransmitters. In islets, they help develop beta cells into cells that secrete insulin. Dr. Chessler hopes to learn how to use the proteins to correct problems in beta cells that impair their ability to make insulin. ​