This research direction currently includes two projects:
Understanding the Role of MTs in the Regulation of Insulin Secretion
The incidence of diabetes continues to increase worldwide. It was estimated that by the year 2030, 4.4% of the population will suffer from diabetes. The goal of this project is to understand the role of the microtubule (MT) cytoskeleton in the progression of diabetes and, in particular, in insulin secretion. Our unique approach combines the traditional mouse models of diabetes with modern imaging technique, such as super-resolution microscopy, total internal refection (TIRF) microscopy, and high-resolution confocal microscopy. With these powerful techniques, we have resolved the MT network organization in islet β-cells and have uncovered an unconventional MT-dependent regulation of insulin secretion. Our next step is to determine the mechanistic details of this regulation and to dissect its role in the development and treatment of diabetes in humans. This project is in collaboration with Guoqiang Gu's lab at Vanderbilt University.
Understanding Membrane Dynamics in Islet β-cells
The average diameter of pancreatic beta cell is around 10 µm. Each β-cell contains over 10,000 insulin granules, each of which is around 0.3 µm wide; insulin synthesis and packaging into granules is further enhanced upon glucose stimulation. Therefore, β-cells require very powerful intracellular machines for membrane synthesis and dynamics. In collaboration with Guoqiang Gu's lab at Vanderbilt University, we are now applying living cell analysis and super-/high- resolution microscopy to understand the regulation of membrane dynamics in β-cells and the involvement of membrane dynamics in diabetes.