Diabetes Imaging Program

There is an extensive group within BIRC whose members are using techniques in molecular imaging that use novel contrast agents based on molecular and cellular biology techniques in combination with diagnostic imaging modalities to examine pancreatic islet function in vivo. Their interests range from detecting changes in islet function that precede the onset of diabetes, to examining the molecular processes of engraftment and vascularization of islet transplants, to evaluating the role of stem cells in generating new islets. To these ends, the group is utilizing novel imaging reporter genes for PET and MRI, as well as targeted probes for PET and SPECT imaging.

A particular focus of the group is the molecular imaging of the pancreatic islet. They have used reporter genes to image pancreatic islet transplants using dual-isotope SPECT and were the first to develop a transgenic mouse in which changes in beta cell mass can be detected by PET molecular imaging. The group is also designing and testing targeted probes for the imaging of islets using PET and SPECT and they have used MRI to detect transplanted pancreatic islets in vivo.

The group works closely with Dr. David Hill at the Lawson Health Research Institute, whose laboratory has made significant progress in investigating mechanisms of islet development. Dr. Hill is also actively involved with collaborative groups in several clinical trials assessing lifestyle intervention in the prevention of gestational diabetes, prevention of cardiovascular complications in diabetes, and examining strategies to prevent progression of Type 2 diabetes in pediatric populations.

In synthesizing PET probes that target a cell surface receptor on the beta cell, the group’s research will lead to clinical trials in imaging the pancreatic islet in vivo in humans at risk for developing diabetes. Their transgenic mouse model will be a unique and valuable tool with which to screen therapies for islet regeneration and development. Further funding is being sought to develop molecular imaging technologies to non-invasively detect the engraftment and vascularization of transplanted pancreatic islets, and their development from stem cell progenitors.

Cheril Clarson, MD, Pediatric Endocrinology
Savita Dhanvantari, PhD, Molecular Imaging, Diabetes
Paula Foster, PhD, MRI, Cellular Imaging
Donna Goldhawk, PhD, Reporter Gene Expression
David Hill, D Phil, Diabetes
Jim Koropatnick, PhD, Molecular Biology
Michael Kovacs, PhD, PET Radiochemistry
Ting-Yim Lee, PhD, PET/CT
Leonard Luyt, PhD, Medicinal Chemistry
Frank Prato, PhD, Imaging Physics
Glenn Wells, PhD, PET/SPECT Physics
David White, MD, Transplantation
Pamela Zabel, MScPhm, Radiopharmacy


Maria Hatzaglou, PhD, Nutrition, Case Western Reserve University, OH
Carl-Henrick Brogren, PhD, Autoimmune Diabetes, Copenhagen, Denmark