The overall objective of our team is to study mechanisms that regulate the development and function of a specialized type of pancreatic cells, known as β-cells, that are responsible for the production of insulin, and whose function is lost in type 1 diabetes, or altered in type 2 diabetes. A major area of focus in the lab is to understand the function of proteins that regulate cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions in the pancreas. These proteins, also referred to as "cell adhesion molecules," are used by cells not only to aggregate with each other, but also to let cells talk to one another through the exchange of biochemical signals, thereby helping developing/immature cells to decide whether to grow (i.e. increase in numbers) or to differentiate (i.e. mature) into functional adult β-cells. In an effort to develop strategies of possible translational value to human diabetes, our team is using a multipronged approach. On the one hand, we are trying to understand if tissue donor-derived immature pancreatic cells can be coaxed to produce insulin upon stimulation with molecules that foster cell-cell and/or cell-matrix interactions. On the other hand, recombinant cell adhesion molecules that we are producing in the lab are used as biochemical cues to test whether they can trigger the maturation of stem cells to become insulin-producing β-cells, or to trigger the proliferation of adult β-cells, thus increasing their number before transplantation, or promote their regeneration in diabetic patients.