ISCRM faculty members Laura Crisa, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, Medicine/Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, and Farid Moussavi-Harami, MD, Assistant Professor, Medicine/Cardiology, have received prestigious awards from the John H. Tietze Foundation Trust that will help fuel promising research underway in their labs.
Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune diseases that occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin for reasons that are not well understood. People living with type 1 Diabetes require daily injections of insulin to survive and are at risk of both life-threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and lifelong health complications. ISCRM faculty member Laura Crisa MD, PhD is using a “disease-in-a-dish” model to study how islet cells falter – and whether they can be regenerated, and eventually transplanted, into patients.
In pursuit of treatments that better address the root causes of type 1 diabetes, the Crisa laboratory has developed a microfluidic modeling system that reconstitutes key components of the pancreatic islet tissue microenvironment, including vascular networks through which these endocrine organelles can sense changing glucose levels as well as metabolic stressors and inflammatory cues that cause islets demise.
With the John H. Tietze Stem Cell Scientist Award, the Crisa Lab, in partnership with ISCRM faculty member Julie Mathieu, PhD, will use tissue-chip technology to investigate mechanisms of resistance to metabolic stress in human stem cell-derived pancreatic islet cells. The researchers hope the findings will inform more effective transplant therapies for type 1 diabetes and other degenerative diseases.
Studying Genetic Cardiomyopathies
Cardiomyopathies are diseases where the heart is structurally and functionally abnormal. The two most common subtypes are hypertrophic (HCM) and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Advances in DNA-sequencing techniques have identified an increasing list of genes implicated in cardiomyopathies including those encoding for proteins of the heart’s contractile apparatus, known as the sarcomere. These genetic abnormalities perturb the finely tuned contractile apparatus of the heart.
ISCRM faculty member Farid Moussavi-Harami studies the factors that contribute to development of HCM and DCM. One such factor is the level of myocyte calcium in the setting of altered sarcomere function. However, existing tools used for calcium measurements lack the ability to measure calcium levels at the sarcomere.
The Jaconette L. Tietze Young Scientist Award will allow the Moussavi-Harami lab to engineer a new stem cell tool to directly measure sarcomere calcium levels in cardiomyopathy cells and in the presence of genetic mutations and medications that alter contractility. The goal is to better understand the mechanisms by which abnormal calcium levels contribute to cardiomyopathies.