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Medical College researcher to study protein linked to diabetes and liver disease

July 13, 2012

The Medical College of Wisconsin received a four-year, $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The award will fund an investigation of a key regulatory protein linked to diabetes and liver disease.

Lisa Ann Cirillo, Ph.D., associate professor of cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy, is the principal investigator for the grant.

Mutations in the regulatory protein, FoxO1, have been linked to the development of diabetes and liver disease. Diabetes affects 25.8 million children and adults in the United States. Complications of the disease include heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease and neurological disease. The cost of diabetes annually is estimated at $174 billion in the United States alone.

Liver diseases linked to the FoxO1 protein include hepatic steatosis, or fatty liver, which can be a serious disease in pregnant women. FoxO1 is also linked to hepatic fibrosis, an abnormal protein build-up that can damage the liver and lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.

Investigators on Dr. Cirillo’s research team will use human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPS), adult cells transformed into stem cells for the purposes of research, to explore how the FoxO1 protein regulates the development and function of liver cells. The researchers will also utilize innovative methods to analyze the structure of proteins involved in the expression of FoxO1.

This project will lead to improved understanding of the regulation of this protein related to metabolism and liver function, which will contribute to the development of new therapies for patients with diabetes and liver disease.

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