The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) has awarded Dr Richard Benninger, Assistant Professor in Bioengineering, a career development award (CDA) totaling $750,000 over 5 years. The title of the project is “Interactions between islet function and beta cell autoimmunity during the pathogenesis of type1 diabetes”.
Type1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease which leads to an imbalance in blood sugar levels, requiring life-long insulin therapy and increasing risks for widespread kidney, vascular, heart or retinal diseases. The precise causes of the disease and role of environmental and genetic factors remain to be determined; however we know that the immune-mediated destruction of insulin producing beta-cells is a central factor in the development of this disease. Research is investigating ways to alter the immune system to prevent the destruction of beta-cells, however recent research is discovering that an altered function of the beta-cells themselves during the disease progression may be an important factor. The CDA will build upon the Benninger lab’s recent work in applying advanced microscopy approaches and understanding pancreatic islet function, and develop further interactions within the Barbara Davis center for childhood diabetes where the Benninger lab is housed. This will help discover new ways in which beta-cells are disrupted in the disease pathogenesis and determine whether control of certain factors in these cells will blunt or prevent the emergence of diabetes in at risk populations.