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Kiaris awarded grant to examine unfolded protein response, p21 gene in diabetes

Hippokratis Kiaris, an associate professor in the College of Pharmacy, was recently awarded a two-year $146,500 grant from the National Institute on Aging to fund his project “Beta cell dysfunction during aging: Studies on the role of p21 in the regulation of the Unfolded Protein Response.”

With aging, the body’s ability to produce insulin decreases, which in turn hampers cells’ ability to metabolize sugar and can lead to the development of diabetes. This reduction in insulin production is also associated with insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells’ diminished ability to properly fold and shape proteins.

For the project, Kiaris and his team are examining the role of gene p21 in one type of islet cells — beta cells — and their ability to properly fold and shape proteins and produce insulin. The team is exploring whether therapeutic interventions that modulate p21 expression improve islet function and survival. Kiaris theorizes that manipulation of this pathway — the unfolded protein response — may also apply to other aging-associated health conditions.

Kiaris’s team includes co-investigator Ioulia Chatzistamou, clinical assistant professor in the School of Medicine; and College of Pharmacy team members Elena Farmaki, a post-doctoral researcher; Amanda Havighorst, a graduate student; and Vimala Kaza, a technician.

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