Islet Biology & Cell Therapy

In both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, islet beta cells are dysfunctional and die, leading to loss of insulin production and hyperglycemia. BCDRN has world-recognized strength in islet biology research, and includes translational research scientists focused on islet beta cell function, regeneration, death, inflammation, and replacement. Vancouver is a leading centre for pancreatic islet transplantation and human islet research and is a site for clinical trials in beta cell replacement, including stem cell derived insulin-producing cells. BCDRN researchers have made pioneering contributions to the generation of beta cells from stem cells suitable for transplantation; identifying the causes of beta cell death and dysfunction in type 2 diabetes; understanding the causes and consequences of excess insulin secretion in obesity (hyperinsulinemia); and understanding the pathways that lead to the production of new beta cells during development.

Diabetes Risk & Prevention

BC has over 300,000 people living with diabetes and many more at risk for developing the disease. Our diverse BC population includes many groups at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, including those of Asian, First Nations and South Asian descent. Through outreach and community programs, BCDRN researchers have partnered with members of those communities to study the disease and to design and implement healthy lifestyle interventions, including nutrition and physical activity programs. BCDRN researchers have also identified biomarkers associated with risk for type 1 diabetes including indicators of beta cell dysfunction and autoimmunity.


Poorly managed and untreated diabetes affects many systems of the body and can lead to secondary complications like heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputations. BCDRN researchers are working to identify the molecular mechanisms that underlie the development of these complications and improve the outcomes for people living with diabetes by developing novel approaches to minimize these adverse effects of diabetes.

Patient-centred Research

BCDRN research aims to improve the lives of people living with diabetes by translating our fundamental discovery-based research into clinical and population-based programs to improve health outcomes for people living with diabetes. We have ongoing novel clinical trials in stem cell transplants and immune modulation derived directly from discoveries made in the laboratory. BCDRN research has also led to changes in clinical practice guidelines and patient care. Though engagement of patients in the clinic, samples for study in the laboratory have led to the identification of potential biomarkers of disease risk and response to treatment. Vulnerable populations are actively engaged in the community, with the goal of reducing the burden of disease in these groups while performing patient-oriented researching aiming to understand the mechanisms underlying the risk for the disease.

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