Xiaojuan (Jan) Chen, MD, PhD
Dr. Chen’s research is focused on pancreatic islets, which contain insulin-secreting beta cells and glucagon-secreting alpha cells, both important for maintaining blood glucose homeostasis. The main research goal of the Chen lab is to explore areas of islet cellular and molecular biology that are pertinent to the development of diabetes as well as to the improvement of islet transplantation for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. In addition, the laboratory aims to, by working closely with immunologists at the CCTI, develop clinically applicable strategies for the induction of donor specific transplantation tolerance in islet transplant recipients. Current lines of investigation include:
1. Studies on the physiology of human islet alpha and beta cells including their paracrine interaction as part of an effort in understanding the abnormalities in hormonal secretion by islets in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
2. Studies on the immunogenicity of beta cells potentially contributed to the development of type 1 diabetes under different pathophysiological conditions.
3. Studies on the induction of specific tolerance to allogeneic islet transplants by an approach which utilizes mixed bone marrow chimerism and T-regulatory cells.
4. Studies on developing approaches that optimize islet cell survival and function during islet processing, culture and engraftment.
5. Studies on islet beta cell replication including the mechanisms and the limiting factors involved. These studies will allow us to gain greater insights into the fundamental physiological mechanisms that govern the normal growth and functioning of pancreatic islets. In addition, it will provide a physiological basis to identify targets in signaling pathways that would be useful to design potential therapeutic strategies to generate new beta cells to prevent and/or cure type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
The future goals of the laboratory are to pursue each of the areas in more depth both physiologically and mechanistically and to continually pinpoint areas of therapeutic potential, particularly in preventing islet dysfunction during the development of diabetes as well as in preventing auto- and allo-immunity against islets.
Dr. Xiaojuan Chen is a principal investigator at the CCTI and serves as Director of Islet Cell Transplantation of CCTI and the Director of Columbia Islet Processing Core at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Chen received her M.D. degree from Jinan University Medical College, China, M.S. degree in Biology from Marquette University, and Ph.D degree in Molecular and Cellular Physiology from University of Cincinnati, followed by a postdoctoral training at the John’s Hopkins University. She joined Columbia University in 2012 after spending 15 years at Northwestern University School of Medicine, where she conducted translational research in islet cell transplantation. Having become an expert in the exacting methodology and compliance procedures required for FDA-approved clinical cellular therapies, Dr. Chen performed islet isolation from more than 180 pancreata for research and clinical islet transplantation to patients with type 1 diabetes.
At Columbia, her laboratory is conducting research on human islet cell biology and immunogeneicity characterization, and utilizes islet transplantation models to explore areas of islet cellular and molecular biology that are pertinent to the development of diabetes as well as to the improvement of islet transplantation for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. In addition, Dr. Chen will direct a nonhuman primate research program in tolerance induction to islet allografts. Using both animal models and human islets, she will play a key role in translating tolerance therapies from animal models to the clinic. For more information on current research, please see research description and publications.