Our lab studies pancreas development and function, focusing on the role of the  microenvironment in these processes.

Using in vivo mouse models, we focus on three main questions

How do mesenchymal cells regulate pancreas development in the embryo?

The pancreas comprises of various cell types that share common progenitors in the embryo. We showed that mesenchymal cells guide pancreas and beta-cell development, and are required to establish organ size and shape (Landsman et al, 2011). To elucidate the molecular basis of mesenchymal function, we focus on the role of two signaling pathways, the Wnt and Hedgehog pathways in pancreas development (Hibsher et al., 2016).


How do pericytes support beta-cell function and glucose regulation?

Insulin-producing beta-cells rely on their microenvironment for their functionality and mass. Pericytes, along with endothelial cells, make up the islets of Langerhans dense capillary network. We recently showed that pericytes promote beta-cell function and glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (Sasson, Rachi, Sakhneny et al., 2016). We now use transgenic mouse models to further define the pericyte/beta-cell axis and its requirement for glucose homeostasis.


How does abnormal pericyte function contribute to diabetes progression?

Impaired function of beta-cells is a key factor in type 2 diabetes. We study whether diabetes-associated changes in islet pericytes comprise their ability to support beta-cell function and glucose regulation