Throughout the month of August, we will be sharing important milestones from Joslin’s rich history. More than a century after its creation, Joslin continues its legacy as an internationally recognized diabetes treatment and research institution. This month we are celebrating the talented and dedicated individuals who have contributed to and continue to focus on our mission of preventing, treating and curing diabetes.
Joslin has the largest collection of diabetes researchers under one roof—endocrinologists, clinical researchers, geneticists, molecularbiologists, bioinformatics specialists and more. Facing a disease that is rapidly becoming a pandemic, Joslin is amplifying its laboratory studies, organized into six basic science sections that feed into a large clinical research section and translational medicine program.
Primary research faculty now number more than 35, a sixfold increase since 1981. These experts guide 120 fellows, talented young investigators with M.D. and/or Ph.D. degrees drawn to Joslin from all corners of the globe to explore innovative ideas. Joslin also is an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, with nearly 12,000 faculty, the most prolific biomedical research community in the world.
At Joslin, Chief Scientific Officer George King, M.D., and department leaders have charted the following course for laboratory research:
– Prevent and cure type 1 diabetes: Study the immune system and all phases of autoimmunity, how to prevent destruction of pancreatic beta cells, and new ways to regenerate or replace them. Link this lab research with clinical strategies to quiet the autoimmune response, transplant insulin-producing cells and develop a closed-loop system, or artificial pancreas.
– Prevent and reverse type 2 diabetes: Launch studies of microbes found in the gut and their gene expression. Increase research in exercise physiology. Continue Joslin’s groundbreaking research in insulin resistance and biology of brown fat; elucidate the interconnected complexities of type 2 diabetes.
– Prevent diabetes complications: In vascular tissues such as the heart, kidney and eye, explore cell-based pathways of oxidative stress and vascular change, seeking to identify factors that have protected people with type 1 diabetes for 50 years or longer without developing complications.
– New technologies: Expand the biobank, a valuable depository of biospecimens collected from patients. Also increase capabilities in genomics, the analysis of the complete set of DNA within an organism; proteomics, largescale studies of protein structure and function; and metabolomics, studies of end products of metabolism. Enhance bioinformatics, imaging systems and core facilities that provide highly sophisticated, shared lab technologies.
Amy Wagers, Ph.D., studies mechanisms of tissue maintenance and regeneration, focusing primarily on the role of two types of adult stem cells, one that makes blood and another that makes skeletal muscle, with the goal of finding ways to promote the repair of tissues damaged by diabetes.
Rohit Kulkarni, M.D., Ph.D., focuses on growth factors and signaling pathways that regulate islet-cell regeneration and survival, coaxing induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from skin to differentiate into insulin-producing beta cells, and investigating a genetic signaling protein associated with islet growth in obesity and insulin resistance.
T. Keith Blackwell, M.D., Ph.D., studies the tiny roundworm C. elegans, a simple animal model with a three-week lifespan. His research holds promise for elucidating cellular and metabolic stress involved in diabetes complications, reducing inflammation, slowing aging and promoting regeneration or repair of beta cells.