According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), 400 million people suffer from diabetes mellitus worldwide. Diabetes is caused by dysfunction, death and dedifferentiation of pancreatic islets. The latter are cell aggregates composed of multiple different hormone-secreting endocrine cells and a supportive microvasculature. In islets, the alpha cells secrete glucagon into the microvasculature to temporally increase blood glucose concentration, whereas the beta cells reduce the blood glucose via release of insulin into the bloodstream.
Members of the Institute of Metabolic Physiology investigate the basic molecular mechanisms underpinning pancreatic islet functionality in order to determine how insulin-secreting beta cells can be maintained during diabetes to prevent disease progression.