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Prof. Mark Donath

University of Basel, Switzerland

Prof. Donath’s webpage

Research interests: Islet inflammation in type 2 diabetes

Our research focuses on the mechanisms and therapy of decreased insulin production by the pancreatic islets in the obesity associated type 2 diabetes. In previous studies we demonstrated that the metabolic stress evoked by high glucose and saturated fatty acids (contained in animal fat) may induce death of the insulin producing beta-cells of the islets. Subsequently we identified interleukin 1 beta as a key mediator of these deleterious effects and showed that it is produce by human beta-cells in type 2 diabetes. More recently we published several additional studies supporting the concept that this mechanism leads to an inflammatory process and underlies the failure to produce sufficient amount of insulin in type 2 diabetes. On the basis of this we initiated clinical trials in patients with type 2 diabetes that vindicates this hypothesis and opens the way for a causative treatment. Furthermore we identified a new endocrine loop by showing that elevated IL-6 mediates a cross talk between insulin sensitive tissues, L cells and pancreatic islets to adapt to changes in insulin. Finally, recently we uncovered the first monogenic form of type 1 diabetes. This research has contributed to the concept that the innate immune system is part of the regulation of metabolism. The overall goal of the present projects aim at understanding the precise role and regulation of the uncovered islet inflammation in type 2 diabetes and test therapeutic interventions