Currently, three areas of active research are being maintained.
Autoimmune diabetes research: First research endeavors in this area involved application of a novel bone marrow transplantation procedure involving in vitro-grown hematopoietic stem cells to produce bone marrow chimerics between diabetes susceptible and diabetes resistant laboratory mice. Demonstrated that autoimmune diseases are prevented by altering the genetics of the bone marrow, and warned of the ability to transfer autoimmune diseases to recipients through bone marrow transplantation. (Both situations are now recognized as possible complications in human autoimmune diabetes.) More recently, our research has focused on the neogenesis of the endocrine pancreas. Our discoveries may represent the first time a complete organ has been regenerated in vitro from single stem cells, a process that has been accorded world-wide attention. First, presented at the 1995 American Diabetes Association, the 5th International Diabetes Workshop, and a special session of the 5th International Pancreas and Islet Transplantation Association meeting, this research has been covered by CNN, AP, and the BBC. Discussions have been initiated at both the University of Florida and Karolinska Institutet to look at the feasibility of using these in vitro-generated islets for implantation into diabetic patients.
Autoimmune xerostomia & xerophthalmia: This work, carried out in collaboration with Dr. Michael Humphreys-Beher (Department of Oral Biology, College of Dentistry), led to the first award to the University of Florida (1995-1997) from the National Institutes of Health under the Women’s Health Supplemental Grant program. Our work has resulted in the NOD mouse model becoming recognized as “the most appropriate animal model of the human disease, Sjögren’s syndrome”. In 1996, Christopher Robinson, a graduate student in the laboratory working on this project, won the prestigious Hatton Research Award given to the best scientific research by a predoctoral student in the area of dental research by the American Dental Association. Recent work has identified autoantibody reactive with the muscarinic M3 acetylcholine receptor as the probable cause of onset of autoimmune exocrinopathy, opening a whole new area for both diagnosis and intervention therapy.
Hyperoxaluria: Research in this area has demonstrated the importance of the gut-associated bacterium, Oxalobacter formigenes, in regulating the homeostasis of oxalate in both animals and humans. This work has received international media attention, including a special interview and presentation in 1994 on the BBC, later broadcast to seventy-six countries worldwide. This work also received special note by the Mother Teresa Society in 1995. Recently, our research has led to the development of a new designer drug, OxControlTM, that is currently entering clinical trials for the prevention of enteric hyperoxaluria in patients with a variety of conditions (i.e., cystic fibrosis patients, IBS patients and individuals with recurrent kidney stone disease).