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Ercument Dirice, Ph.D., Receives $750,000 Grant from JDRF to Explore New Therapeutic Approaches for Diabetes

Lack of insulin producing beta-cells is a common characteristic for both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes

April 20, 2022

Ercument Dirice, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology, has been awarded a $750,000 grant from JDRF, for his study “GPR75, a novel actor in beta cell regeneration,” which will explore potential new therapeutic approaches for type 1 diabetes.

“Lack of insulin producing beta-cells is a common characteristic for both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Compensating for beta-cell loss by stimulating their proliferation has been a hot topic in the diabetes field for decades. Several studies have been reported induction of the beta-cell proliferation but none of them are used clinically yet,” said Dr. Dirice.

Dr. Dirice joined New York Medical College (NYMC) in 2019 from the Joslin Diabetes Center/Harvard Medical School, where he contributed to several breakthroughs in the diabetes field. At NYMC, Dr. Dirice has focused on the mechanisms regulating insulin-secreting pancreatic beta-cell survival, regeneration and their resistance to stress-mediated cell death.

“Our preliminary analysis identified the protein-coding gene GPR75 as a potential candidate for regulating the increase of insulin-producing beta cells. In our research, when this receptor protein was removed, it resulted in reduced beta-cell replication, size and quantity,” said Dr. Dirice. “With this information in mind, we hypothesized that GPR75 plays an important role in beta-cell replication and/or survival and can be utilized pharmacologically to help treat beta-cell loss in diabetics.”

“Currently, the only treatment for type 1 diabetes is daily glucose monitoring and insulin administration. This treatment is not only burdensome to patients, but also expensive and difficult to consistently and correctly dose for maintaining euglycemia,” said Dr. Dirice.  “The long-term goal of our studies is to identify candidate molecules and pathways that can be harnessed to develop pharmacologic therapies to induce beta-cell regeneration in patients with diabetes, especially type 1 diabetes.”