A European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant worth more than a million euros over the next five years has been awarded to Dr. Francesca M. Spagnoli of the Max Delbrck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany. For nearly a year Dr. Spagnoli has been leading a Helmholtz junior research group at MDC, an institution of the Helmholtz Association, and at Charit Universittsmedizin Berlin. Together with the biophysicist Dr. Leif Schrder from the Leibniz Institut fr Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP), also on the Berlin-Buch Campus, Dr. Spagnoli belongs to the 240 top scientists the ERC has chosen from more than 2, 500 applicants.
The research project of Dr. Spagnoli will investigate the possibility of reprogramming hepatic cells to pancreas cells so that they can ultimately replace the destroyed pancreatic beta cells and produce the vital hormone insulin in diabetic patients.
Dr. Spagnoli is originally from Italy and has two doctorate degrees, one in medicine and the other in genetics and cell biology. Her major field of interest is stem cell research, and she is currently investigating the embryonic development of beta cells in the Langerhans' islets of the pancreas and also the embryonic development of hepatic cells.
Beta cells produce the hormone insulin which regulates the blood glucose levels, the body's main source of energy. In patients with type 1 diabetes the beta cells have been destroyed due to a misguided response of the immune system, and blood glucose levels are elevated.
These patients must self-inject insulin throughout their whole life. Even in patients with type 2 diabetes, who initially can be treated with a special diet and pills, the beta cells can decline and fail over time, so that these patients, too, must self-inject insulin.
Insulin replacement therapy, however, has adverse side effects. This is why physicians have been trying for a long time to transplant intact beta cells or w
|Contact: Barbara Bachtler|
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres