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Frank Möller

Helmholtz Diabetes Center Institute for Pancreatic Islet Research

The mission of the IPI is to protect and restore the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas to prevent and cure diabetes mellitus.

The mission of the IPI is to protect and restore the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas to prevent and cure diabetes mellitus

About our Research

The research at the IPI focuses on the pancreatic islets, in which the insulin-producing beta cells, which are damaged or even destroyed in type-1 and type-2 diabetes, are located. The study of the underlying mechanisms and their better understanding helps scientists to develop new therapeutic approaches.

Since January 2016, the IPI has been part of Helmholtz Munich as a satellite institute and forms the core of the previously founded Paul Langerhans Institute Dresden (PLID) of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD e.V.).

Currently, the IPI comprises 16 research groups dealing with various aspects of diabetes. The scientists are working on deciphering the mechanisms that lead to the destruction and/or functional impairment of beta cells and are also trying to develop new approaches to replace damaged or destroyed beta cells.

Therefore, our mission is to protect and restore the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas to prevent and cure diabetes mellitus.

Over the past years, an international team of scientists from a wide variety of disciplines has been recruited to perform their research in Dresden, making IPI to one of the leading diabetes research locations in Germany. The interdisciplinary cooperation and the close connection of experts from different disciplines such as genetics, immunology, cell and developmental biology with the clinical departments of internal medicine and visceral, thoracic and vascular surgery or stem cell experts guarantee a translational orientation of the research. The excellent research infrastructure in Dresden provides moreover the basis for future scientific excellence.

Our Research Groups

Solimena Lab

Molecular Diabetology

Our laboratory is interested in the cell biology of  beta cells of the endocrine pancreas. Our research is focused on the insulin secretory granules, their cargoes as dominant autoantigens in Type-1 diabetes and the identification of the pathogenic mechnisms leading to the failure of  pancreatic beta cells in Type-2 diabetes through the study of  islets of living donors.

Gavalas Lab

Stem Cells in Pancreas Development and Disease

We are interested in understanding how extracellular signals and intrinsic genetic programs interact to initially dictate cell fate decisions in stem and progenitor cells and eventually establish mature phenotypes. 

Coskun Lab

Membrane Biochemistry and Lipid Research

We challenge the mutual interdependence of lipid-protein interactions by an interdisciplinary approach, combining cell biology and synthetic biology as well as protein biochemistry, structure biology and biophysics.

Speier Lab

Islet of Langerhans physiology in the pathogenesis and therapy of diabetes

Our group investigates the role of beta cell mass and function at distinct stages of diabetes pathogenesis and aims to discover novel therapeutic targets for beta cell protection and recovery in type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Our Staff at IPI

Juha Torkko, PhD

Postdoc

Dr. Andreas Müller

Postdoc

Carolin Eckert

Technische Assistenz

Daniela Friedland

Technische Assistenz

Katharina Ganß

Technische Assistenz

Katja Pfriem

Administrative Coordination

Prof. Dr. Ünal Coskun

Gruppenleiter View profile

Michal Grzybek, PhD

Postdoc

Beate Brankatschk

Technische Assistenz

Prof. Anthony Gavalas, PhD

Gruppenleiter View profile

Alin Jurisch

Technische Assistenz

Prof. Stephan Speier, PhD

Gruppenleiter View profile

Dr. Christian Cohrs

Postdoc

Katharina Hüttner

Technische Assistenz

Dana Krüger

Administration

Dr. Frank Möller

Scientific Coordination

Mandy Rödiger

Predoc

Elisa Zanfrini

Predoc

Zeina Nicola, PhD

Postdoc / Labormanager

Carla Münster

Technische Assistenz

Eyke Schöniger

Technische Assistenz

Alessandra Palladini, PhD

Postdoc

Annika Hutschreuther-Azizi

Administration Assistance

Dr. Christine Herrmann

Postdoc

Sarah Hermann

Technische Assistenz

Ivan Perez Rodriguez

Predoc

Ana Karen Mojica Avila

Predoc

Ekaterina Nikitina

Predoc

Yanni Morgenroth

Manuj Bandral

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Publications

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2022 Scientific Article in Life Science Alliance

Asplund, O. ; Storm, P. ; Chandra, V. ; Hatem, G. ; Ottosson-Laakso, E. ; Mansour-Aly, D. ; Krus, U. ; Ibrahim, H.S. ; Ahlqvist, E. ; Tuomi, T. ; Renström, E. ; Korsgren, O. ; Wierup, N. ; Ibberson, M. ; Solimena, M. ; Marchetti, P. ; Wollheim, C.B. ; Artner, I. ; Mulder, H. ; Hansson, O. ; Otonkoski, T. ; Groop, L. ; Prasad, R.B.

Islet Gene View-a tool to facilitate islet research.

Characterization of gene expression in pancreatic islets and its alteration in type 2 diabetes (T2D) are vital in understanding islet function and T2D pathogenesis. We leveraged RNA sequencing and genome-wide genotyping in islets from 188 donors to create the Islet Gene View (IGW) platform to make this information easily accessible to the scientific community. Expression data were related to islet phenotypes, diabetes status, other islet-expressed genes, islet hormone-encoding genes and for expression in insulin target tissues. The IGW web application produces output graphs for a particular gene of interest. In IGW, 284 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were identified in T2D donor islets compared with controls. Forty percent of DEGs showed cell-type enrichment and a large proportion significantly co-expressed with islet hormone-encoding genes; glucagon (GCG, 56%), amylin (IAPP, 52%), insulin (INS, 44%), and somatostatin (SST, 24%). Inhibition of two DEGs, UNC5D and SERPINE2, impaired glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and impacted cell survival in a human β-cell model. The exploratory use of IGW could help designing more comprehensive functional follow-up studies and serve to identify therapeutic targets in T2D.

2022 Review in Nature metabolism

Gloyn, A.L. ; Ibberson, M. ; Marchetti, P. ; Powers, A.C. ; Rorsman, P. ; Sander, M. ; Solimena, M.

Every islet matters: Improving the impact of human islet research.

Detailed characterization of human pancreatic islets is key to elucidating the pathophysiology of all forms of diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes. However, access to human pancreatic islets is limited. Pancreatic tissue for islet retrieval can be obtained from brain-dead organ donors or from individuals undergoing pancreatectomy, often referred to as ‘living donors’. Different protocols for human islet procurement can substantially impact islet function. This variability, coupled with heterogeneity between individuals and islets, results in analytical challenges to separate genuine disease pathology or differences between human donors from experimental noise. There are currently no international guidelines for human donor phenotyping, islet procurement and functional characterization. This lack of standardization means that substantial investments from multiple international efforts towards improved understanding of diabetes pathology cannot be fully leveraged. In this Perspective, we overview the status of the field of human islet research, highlight the challenges and propose actions that could accelerate research progress and increase understanding of type 2 diabetes to slow its pandemic spreading.

2022 Scientific Article in Nature Communications

Katsumoto, K. ; Yennek, S. ; Chen, C. ; Silva, L.F.D. ; Traikov, S. ; Sever, D. ; Azad, A. ; Shan, J. ; Vainio, S. ; Ninov, N. ; Speier, S. ; Grapin-Botton, A.

Wnt4 is heterogeneously activated in maturing β-cells to control calcium signaling, metabolism and function.

Diabetes is a multifactorial disorder characterized by loss or dysfunction of pancreatic β-cells. β-cells are heterogeneous, exhibiting different glucose sensing, insulin secretion and gene expression. They communicate with other endocrine cell types via paracrine signals and between β-cells via gap junctions. Here, we identify the importance of signaling between β-cells via the extracellular signal WNT4. We show heterogeneity in Wnt4 expression, most strikingly in the postnatal maturation period, Wnt4-positive cells, being more mature while Wnt4-negative cells are more proliferative. Knock-out in adult β-cells shows that WNT4 controls the activation of calcium signaling in response to a glucose challenge, as well as metabolic pathways converging to lower ATP/ADP ratios, thereby reducing insulin secretion. These results reveal that paracrine signaling between β-cells is important in addition to gap junctions in controling insulin secretion. Together with previous reports of WNT4 up-regulation in obesity our observations suggest an adaptive insulin response coordinating β-cells.

2022 Scientific Article in Nature Communications

Bakhti, M. ; Bastidas-Ponce, A. ; Tritschler, S. ; Czarnecki, O. ; Tarquis Medina, M. ; Nedvedova, E. ; Jaki, J. ; Willmann, S. ; Scheibner, K. ; Cota, P. ; Salinno, C. ; Boldt, K. ; Horn, N. ; Ueffing, M. ; Burtscher, I. ; Theis, F.J. ; Coskun, Ü. ; Lickert, H.

Synaptotagmin-13 orchestrates pancreatic endocrine cell egression and islet morphogenesis.

During pancreas development endocrine cells leave the ductal epithelium to form the islets of Langerhans, but the morphogenetic mechanisms are incompletely understood. Here, we identify the Ca2+-independent atypical Synaptotagmin-13 (Syt13) as a key regulator of endocrine cell egression and islet formation. We detect specific upregulation of the Syt13 gene and encoded protein in endocrine precursors and the respective lineage during islet formation. The Syt13 protein is localized to the apical membrane of endocrine precursors and to the front domain of egressing endocrine cells, marking a previously unidentified apical-basal to front-rear repolarization during endocrine precursor cell egression. Knockout of Syt13 impairs endocrine cell egression and skews the α-to-β-cell ratio. Mechanistically, Syt13 is a vesicle trafficking protein, transported via the microtubule cytoskeleton, and interacts with phosphatidylinositol phospholipids for polarized localization. By internalizing a subset of plasma membrane proteins at the front domain, including α6β4 integrins, Syt13 modulates cell-matrix adhesion and allows efficient endocrine cell egression. Altogether, these findings uncover an unexpected role for Syt13 as a morphogenetic driver of endocrinogenesis and islet formation.

2022 Scientific Article in Stem Cells

Pazur, K. ; Giannios, I. ; Lesche, M. ; Rodriguez-Aznar, E. ; Gavalas, A.

Hoxb1 regulates distinct signaling pathways in neuromesodermal and hindbrain progenitors to promote cell survival and specification.

Hox genes play key roles in the anterior-posterior (AP) specification of all 3 germ layers during different developmental stages. It is only partially understood how they function in widely different developmental contexts, particularly with regards to extracellular signaling, and to what extent their function can be harnessed to guide cell specification in vitro. Here, we addressed the role of Hoxb1 in 2 distinct developmental contexts; in mouse embryonic stem cells (mES)-derived neuromesodermal progenitors (NMPs) and hindbrain neural progenitors. We found that Hoxb1 promotes NMP survival through the upregulation of Fgf8, Fgf17, and other components of Fgf signaling as well as the repression of components of the apoptotic pathway. Additionally, it upregulates other anterior Hox genes suggesting that it plays an active role in the early steps of AP specification. In neural progenitors, Hoxb1 synergizes with shh to repress anterior and dorsal neural markers, promote the expression of ventral neural markers and direct the specification of facial branchiomotorneuron (FBM)-like progenitors. Hoxb1 and shh synergize in regulating the expression of diverse signals and signaling molecules, including the Ret tyrosine kinase receptor. Finally, Hoxb1 synergizes with exogenous Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) to strengthen Ret expression and further promote the generation of FBM-like progenitors. Facial branchiomotorneuron-like progenitors survived for at least 6 months and differentiated into postmitotic neurons after orthotopic transplantation near the facial nucleus of adult mice. These results suggested that the patterning activity of Hox genes in combination with downstream signaling molecules can be harnessed for the generation of defined neural populations and transplantations with implications for neurodegenerative diseases.

2022 Scientific Article in Frontiers in Medicine

Stefan, N. ; Sippel, K. ; Heni, M. ; Fritsche, A. ; Wagner, R. ; Jakob, C.E.M. ; Preissl, H. ; von Werder, A. ; Khodamoradi, Y. ; Borgmann, S. ; Ruethrich, M.M. ; Hanses, F. ; Haselberger, M. ; Piepel, C. ; Hower, M. ; vom Dahl, J. ; Wille, K. ; Roemmele, C. ; Vehreschild, J. ; Stecher, M. ; Solimena, M. ; Roden, M. ; Schuermann, A. ; Gallwitz, B. ; Hrabě de Angelis, M. ; Ludwig, D.S. ; Schulze, M.B. ; Jensen, B.E.O. ; Birkenfeld, A.L.

Obesity and impaired metabolic health increase risk of COVID-19-related mortality in young and middle-aged adults to the level observed in older people: The LEOSS Registry.

Advanced age, followed by male sex, by far poses the greatest risk for severe COVID-19. An unresolved question is the extent to which modifiable comorbidities increase the risk of COVID-19-related mortality among younger patients, in whom COVID-19-related hospitalization strongly increased in 2021. A total of 3,163 patients with SARS-COV-2 diagnosis in the Lean European Open Survey on SARS-CoV-2-Infected Patients (LEOSS) cohort were studied. LEOSS is a European non-interventional multi-center cohort study established in March 2020 to investigate the epidemiology and clinical course of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Data from hospitalized patients and those who received ambulatory care, with a positive SARS-CoV-2 test, were included in the study. An additive effect of obesity, diabetes and hypertension on the risk of mortality was observed, which was particularly strong in young and middle-aged patients. Compared to young and middle-aged (18-55 years) patients without obesity, diabetes and hypertension (non-obese and metabolically healthy; n = 593), young and middle-aged adult patients with all three risk parameters (obese and metabolically unhealthy; n = 31) had a similar adjusted increased risk of mortality [OR 7.42 (95% CI 1.55-27.3)] as older (56-75 years) non-obese and metabolically healthy patients [n = 339; OR 8.21 (95% CI 4.10-18.3)]. Furthermore, increased CRP levels explained part of the elevated risk of COVID-19-related mortality with age, specifically in the absence of obesity and impaired metabolic health. In conclusion, the modifiable risk factors obesity, diabetes and hypertension increase the risk of COVID-19-related mortality in young and middle-aged patients to the level of risk observed in advanced age.

2022 Scientific Article in Journal of Clinical Medicine

Hempel, S. ; Oehme, F. ; Ehehalt, F. ; Solimena, M. ; Kolbinger, F.R. ; Bogner, A. ; Welsch, T. ; Weitz, J. ; Distler, M.

The impact of pancreatic head resection on blood glucose homeostasis in patients with chronic pancreatitis.

Background: Chronic pancreatitis (CP) often leads to recurrent pain as well as exocrine and/or endocrine pancreatic insufficiency. This study aimed to investigate the effect of pancreatic head resections on glucose metabolism in patients with CP. Methods: Patients who underwent pylorus‐preserving pancreaticoduodenectomy (PPPD), Whipple procedure (cPD), or duodenum-preserving pancreatic head resection (DPPHR) for CP between January 2011 and December 2020 were retrospectively analyzed with regard to markers of pancreatic endocrine function including steady‐state beta cell function (%B), insulin resistance (IR), and insulin sensitivity (%S) according to the updated Homeostasis Model Assessment (HOMA2). Results: Out of 141 pancreatic resections for CP, 43 cases including 31 PPPD, 2 cPD and 10 DPPHR, met the inclusion criteria. Preoperatively, six patients (14%) were normoglycemic (NG), 10 patients (23.2%) had impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and 27 patients (62.8%) had diabetes mellitus (DM). In each subgroup, no significant changes were observed for HOMA2‐%B (NG: p = 0.57; IGT: p = 0.38; DM: p = 0.1), HOMA2‐IR (NG: p = 0.41; IGT: p = 0.61; DM: p = 0.18) or HOMA2‐%S (NG: p = 0.44; IGT: p = 0.52; DM: p = 0.51) 3 and 12 months after surgery, respectively. Conclusion: Pancreatic head resections for CP, including DPPHR and pancreatoduodenectomies, do not significantly affect glucose metabolism within a follow‐up period of 12 months.

2022 Scientific Article in BMJ Open

Fritsche, L. ; Hummel, J. ; Wagner, R. ; Löffler, D. ; Hartkopf, J. ; Machann, J. ; Hilberath, J. ; Kantartzis, K. ; Jakubowski, P. ; Pauluschke-Fröhlich, J. ; Brucker, S. ; Hörber, S. ; Häring, H.-U. ; Roden, M. ; Schürmann, A. ; Solimena, M. ; Hrabě de Angelis, M. ; Peter, A. ; Birkenfeld, A.L. ; Preissl, H. ; Fritsche, A. ; Heni, M.

The German Gestational Diabetes Study (PREG), a prospective multicentre cohort study: Rationale, methodology and design.

INTRODUCTION: Even well-treated gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) might still have impact on long-term health of the mother and her offspring, although this relationship has not yet been conclusively studied. Using in-depth phenotyping of the mother and her offspring, we aim to elucidate the relationship of maternal hyperglycaemia during pregnancy and adequate treatment, and its impact on the long-term health of both mother and child. METHODS: The multicentre PREG study, a prospective cohort study, is designed to metabolically and phenotypically characterise women with a 75-g five-point oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) during, and repeatedly after pregnancy. Outcome measures are maternal glycaemia during OGTTs, birth outcome and the health and growth development of the offspring. The children of the study participants are followed up until adulthood with developmental tests and metabolic and epigenetic phenotyping in the PREG Offspring study. A total of 800 women (600 with GDM, 200 controls) will be recruited. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: The study protocol has been approved by all local ethics committees. Results will be disseminated via conference presentations and peer-reviewed publications. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: The PREG study and the PREG Offspring study are registered with Clinical Trials (ClinicalTrials.gov identifiers: NCT04270578, NCT04722900).

2022 Scientific Article in Cell Reports

Rehn, M. ; Wenzel, A. ; Frank, A.K. ; Schuster, M.B. ; Pundhir, S. ; Jørgensen, N. ; Vitting-Seerup, K. ; Ge, Y. ; Jendholm, J. ; Michaut, M. ; Schoof, E.M. ; Jensen, T.L. ; Rapin, N. ; Sapio, R.T. ; Andersen, K.L. ; Lund, A.H. ; Solimena, M. ; Holzenberger, M. ; Pestov, D.G. ; Porse, B.T.

PTBP1 promotes hematopoietic stem cell maintenance and red blood cell development by ensuring sufficient availability of ribosomal constituents.

Ribosomopathies constitute a range of disorders associated with defective protein synthesis mainly affecting hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and erythroid development. Here, we demonstrate that deletion of poly-pyrimidine-tract-binding protein 1 (PTBP1) in the hematopoietic compartment leads to the development of a ribosomopathy-like condition. Specifically, loss of PTBP1 is associated with decreases in HSC self-renewal, erythroid differentiation, and protein synthesis. Consistent with its function as a splicing regulator, PTBP1 deficiency results in splicing defects in hundreds of genes, and we demonstrate that the up-regulation of a specific isoform of CDC42 partly mimics the protein-synthesis defect associated with loss of PTBP1. Furthermore, PTBP1 deficiency is associated with a marked defect in ribosome biogenesis and a selective reduction in the translation of mRNAs encoding ribosomal proteins. Collectively, this work identifies PTBP1 as a key integrator of ribosomal functions and highlights the broad functional repertoire of RNA-binding proteins.

Contact us!

Katja Pfriem

Administrative Coordination

Dr. Frank Möller

Scientific Coordination

Dana Krüger

Administration

Annika Hutschreuther-Azizi

Administration Assistance