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Mapping Endocrine Cell Heterogeneity and Cross Talk Within the Human Islet

Richard Benninger, United States

Associate Professor
Barbara Davis center
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical campus


Heterogeneity in the fucntion of beta cells has long been known. However given the extensive cross talk within the islet, it is unclear how these different populations contribute to overall islet function.  In this talk we will present our work describing how excitable and inexcitable cells interact within the islet and how they can drive the dynamics of electrical activity and insulin secretion. We will further describe how we are study heterogeneity in the human islet 


-how do beta cells interact within the islet?

-how are beta cells heterogeneous?

-how do heterogeneous beta cells impact islet function?

-how does beta cell heterogeneity compare between mouse and human?


Dr. Benninger joined the BDC faculty in 2011. Main goals of Dr. Benninger’s research include understanding novel signaling pathways in the islet of Langerhans that enhance the regulation of hormone secretion; how disruptions to these signaling pathways cause islet dysfunction in diabetes; and how we can manipulate these signaling pathways to improve islet function towards developing new treatments for individuals with diabetes. He is utilizing state-of-the-art quantitative fluorescence microscopy, including two-photon microscopy, fluorescence lifetime imaging, polarization imaging and FRET in studying pancreatic islet dysfunction in diabetes. Dr. Benninger has developed an integrative model of how different cell-cell communication mechanisms dynamically interact within the islet. They have gained understanding into how this impact in-vivo islet function and glucose homeostasis and are now demonstrating that gap junction channels can be modulated to improve islet function and insulin secretion in models of diabetes. Overall his work applies sophisticated quantitative techniques and predictive quantitative models to link emergent multi-cellular properties of the islet of Langerhans to in-vivo physiology and diabetes, and test novel hypotheses regarding these properties that may be clinically important.

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