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Alumni News 2007

This has been a productive and exciting year in our laboratory. We are engaged in research aimed at identifying genes involved in diabetes susceptibility. This past year, we published our first positional cloning success, the identification of SorCS1 as a diabetes susceptibility gene responsible for a quantitative trait locus we originally mapped when Jonathan Stoehr was in the lab several years ago. Much of the credit for this milestone goes to Susie Clee, who was quite resilient in pursuing a very tough project. Susie just was awarded a Scientist Development Grant from the American Heart Association. She has recently been on many job interviews and will likely be happily situated in an independent tenure-track position somewhere else later this year. Our collaborators in San Antonio and Los Angeles have discovered that single nucleotide polymorphisms in SorCS1 are associated with diabetes in Mexican-Americans. Others are now investigating the involvement of this gene in diabetes in other human populations.

Summer Raines and Oliver Richards are studying SorCS1 function. SorCS1 binds to PDGF, a critical regulator of pericyte recruitment to blood vessels. So, they’re exploring the hypothesis that SorCS1 plays a role in angiogenesis in the islet vasculature.

This past year, Mary Rabaglia was awarded the Academic Staff Award at a ceremony in the Chancellor’s Mansion. The award recognizes her many decades of dedicated work at the university and just how really fantastic she is.

We are also collecting highly informative data that links gene expression in various tissues, including pancreatic islets, with diabetes traits and with markers in the genome. With our wonderful statistician collaborators, Christina Kendziorski and Brian Yandell (and their wonderful graduate students), we’re developing network models that describe pathways that are disregulated in diabetes.

We have been joined by several new people this year. Jeremy Lavine, an MD/PhD student is working with Phil Raess on b-cell proliferation mechanisms. Bill Olver, a biochemistry PhD student, is working on our genetics projects. Christine Ferara, an MD/PhD student with Chris Newgard at Duke University, is spending a few years in our lab working on several joint projects between our lab and the Newgard lab. Dawn Belt Davis is an MD/PhD post-doc who just completed her Endocrinology fellowship at UW Hospital and is working with us on our gene discovery projects. Enpeng Zhao is also deeply involved in many of our projects. He is also eagerly awaiting the arrival of his first child, due this spring. Angie Tebon Oler and Kathy Schueler still travel all the corners of the world and have time to do wonderful work in the laboratory. Dan Blasiole is bravely upholding a presence for the lab in the lipid field despite our much higher profile in recent years in the diabetes field. Mark Keller has a hand in virtually every project in the lab and has helped us move into several new and exciting areas. He is about to embark on a drug discovery project to follow up on some exciting leads we have with compounds that stimulate insulin secretion. Jessica Byers Flowers graduated last summer and is now doing a clinical nutrition internship at UW Hospital. She really enjoys the clinical work and envisions combining basic research and clinical nutrition in her future career.

Alan is thrilled by everything and everyone in the lab. We are involved in many areas we could not have predicted before. The lab has developed a lot of new infrastructure, which is extending our capabilities and our level of sophistication in genetics and genomics research.