Cellular endocrinology: processes related to diabetes and endocrine disorders.
The endocrine system is comprised of a set of small organs or glands that all are involved in the release of specific hormones into circulation. This system is essential to the regulation of diverse, critical, body functions such as metabolism, growth, development and reproduction and the stress response. Our primary focus is on the endocrine cells that are required to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Studies of the endocrine cells of islets of Langerhans in the pancreas are of central importance for both our understanding of the cause of diabetes and potential treatments and cure. Diabetes is a disease in which the body fails to properly maintain healthy levels of the simple sugar, glucose, in the blood. Regulation of blood glucose levels is the job of the hormone producing alpha and beta cells in the pancreas. Alpha cells release the hormone glucagon when blood glucose is too low and beta cells release the hormone insulin when blood glucose is high. We study the fundamental cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate hormone secretion from these two cell types.
The lab also studies mechanisms of signaling and secretion responsible for hormone release from the anterior pituitary gland. This includes studies related to secretion of prolactin, growth hormone, the reproductive hormones FSH & LH, and the stress hormone ACTH. All projects use a combination of cell biology, molecular biology and biophysical techniques. We use a variety of imaging technologies including digital-deconvolution, particle tracking, laser scanning confocal microscopy for FRAP and FRET of fluorescent protein-based probes and ratiometric imaging of intracellular ion concentration.