Surinder Batra, Ph.D.
Professor and Chairman, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology,
Helen Freytag Professor of Cancer Biology
Associate Director, Training and Education Eppley Cancer Institute
Expertise: Pancreatic Cancer

Current research in Dr. Batra’s group is directed to establish the specific bio markers that distinguish the tumorigenic and metastatic cancer stem/progenitor cells from their differentiated progenies and normal stem/progenitor cells during the progression of locally advanced cancer to metastatic and recurrent disease stages. His group is investigating specific role(s) of various signaling elements (known for maintaining the stem cells self-renewal and multi-potent nature) during the malignant transformation. These investigations should also allow them to define the molecular events in stem/progenitor cancer cells responsible for the treatment resistance and establish the beneficial effect of combined targeting of stem cell signaling pathways along with conventional therapies.

Surinder Batra, Phd
Brian Boerner, M.D.
Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine
Expertise: Islet Biology & Beta Cell Regeneration

Dr. Boerner's research is focused on human pancreatic beta cell regeneration and improving outcomes for those who develop diabetes or other endocrinological disorders following transplant. Type 1 diabetes is characterized by the autoimmune destruction of pancreatic β-cells resulting in loss of insulin secretion, hyperglycemia, and micro- and macrovascular complications. No cure exists for type 1 diabetes and traditional therapy includes insulin replacement by multiple daily injections of subcutaneous insulin. Allogeneic islet transplantation has the potential to allow insulin independence and improve long-term outcomes in patients with type 1 diabetes. One of the factors limiting allogeneic islet transplant is the lack of islets available for transplantation. On average, at least two donor pancreases are required to harvest enough islets for one allogeneic islet cell transplantation and many patients require more than one infusion to maintain insulin independence. Moving forward, we feel our work will allow us to take a targeted approach to enhance β-cell production and viability, enhancing and promoting β-cell proliferation and survival, will be crucial to allow adequate tissue for islet transplant for patients suffering from type 1 diabetes.

 Dr. Brian Boerner

Nick George, Ph.D.
Instructor, Surgery-Transplant
Expertise: Pancreas Development

Dr. George's work focuses on pancreas developmental biology with the goal of translating bench knowlwdge into novel methods of stimulating beta cell proliferation. Diabetes results in the loss (type 1) or dysfunction (type 2) of insulin-producing beta-cells.  Although refined methods of insulin injection are now available, patients still suffer long term complications, such as vascular and kidney disease, and attainment of a normoglycemic conditions is still not absolute.  Restoration of beta-cell numbers and functionality is therefore the central goal of diabetes research.  Our group is interested in the cell signaling pathways responsible for development of pancreatic beta-cells.  Specifically, we are actively investigating the role of the pro-proliferative and cyto-protective Hippo-Yap signaling pathway during beta-cell development and regeneration.  We have shown that both proliferation and differentiation of insulin-producing beta-cells are regulated by this pathway.  Long term, we hope to translate knowledge obtained in the lab into novel methods of stimulating beta-cell proliferation and survival in vivo.       

 Dr. Nick George

Nora Sarvetnick, Ph.D.
Director, Regenerative Medicine Program
Professor, Surgery-Transplant, College of Medicine
Expertise: Diabetes, Hematopoietic and Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Nora Sarvetnick, Ph.D., Director of the regenerative medicine program, began her scientific career in the areas of genetics and immunology with a specific interest in diabetes. Dr. Sarvetnick became the director of the regenerative medicine program in November 2010. She was first recruited to join the surgery transplant team at UNMC as Director of Research, in the Fall of 2008. Prior to coming to UNMC, the New Jersey native had been a professor for 18 years at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, Calif. Dr. Sarvetnick’s team wants to understand factors that contribute to the auto-inflammatory destruction of tissues. This knowledge will help them design new treatments aimed at predicting and curing diabetes. She has been involved in immunology research for 20 years and has made many seminal discoveries regarding the immunological basis of disease. Her group has developed numerous animal models that have been used to advance the field. They are now transitioning toward clinical immunology.

Visit Dr. Sarvetnick's Laboratory

Dr. Nora Sarvetnick