Maike Sander, MD
Research in Dr. Sander’s laboratory focuses on the development of strategies for a cell based therapy for diabetes mellitus. The successful production of insulin-producing replacement beta-cells requires a thorough understanding of the molecular networks that direct the normal development of these cells, as well as the identification of an appropriate convertible cell type, such as embryonic stem cells or adult progenitor cells. The objective of our research is to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms that control stem/progenitor cell maintenance and differentiation in the embryonic and adult pancreas as well as beta-cell formation from human embryonic stem cells. Specifically, our research has focused on the transcriptional control of pancreatic progenitor cell maintenance and beta-cell specification. We identified Sox9 as a bona fide marker for multipotent progenitors during embryogenesis and demonstrated that its activity is required for pancreatic cell fate commitment and progenitor cell maintenance. Using a human embryonic stem cell-based system of pancreatic endocrine cell differentiation, the Sander laboratory aims to decipher how transcription factors, such as Sox9, orchestrate cell lineage commitment during endodermal cell diversification. Our research employs mouse molecular genetics, biochemical and genomic approaches, as well as human embryonic stem cell culture.