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UPMC Children’s Diabetes Researcher Mohamed Saleh, MD, Awarded NIH K08 Grant

August 18, 2022

The Division of Pediatric Endocrinology at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh congratulates physician-scientist Mohamed Saleh, MD, on receiving a National Institutes of Health K08 award to further his research on beta cell biology and the interaction of B cells with the exocrine and endocrine pancreas.

Dr. Saleh’s new grant builds upon his prior work developing a novel ablative approach of the exocrine pancreas using an infusion of acetic acid administered through the pancreatic duct. Not only did this approach entirely ablate the exocrine pancreas, but it also left islet cells and their function intact. Additional results from this research showed resolution of pain associated with chronic pancreatitis and markers of chronic inflammation. The treatment approach also showed a potential ability to prevent or reverse pancreatitis-induced diabetes. Among other findings from the study published in 2021 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Dr. Saleh’s team noted their subjects showed improved tolerance to glucose and increased insulin secretion in their in vivo studies.

With the new K08 award, Dr. Saleh will continue this research by examining in further detail how beta cell function can be adversely affected by acinar cells in the exocrine pancreas.

With preliminary results in both small animal and non-human primate studies showing improvement of glucose tolerance after ablating the exocrine pancreas while preserving islet cell function, Dr. Saleh’s new experiments and study aims will work to more fully understand the physiologic mechanisms underlying the improved glucose tolerance observed in the models.

A second aim of the study will explore how these findings may be translated using a small animal model of obesity-induced hyperglycemia and explore the functional processes or changes in insulin secretion after ablation of exocrine pancreas cells and functionality.

Furthermore, Dr. Saleh’s research will seek to identify the specific factors expressed by acinar cells that may be responsible for impairing the function of beta cells.

“These studies are designed to try and locate a modifiable target to improve or increase insulin production in type 2 diabetes," says Dr. Saleh. "Given the sheer numbers of people experiencing type 2 diabetes and the massive toll the disease inflicts upon individuals and populations, finding a way to roll back its effects and restore a more normal glucose balance in the body is one of the most important challenges in our field."

Further Reading

Saleh M, Sharma K, Kalsi R, Fusco J, Sehrawat A, Saloman JL, Guo P, Zhang T, Hohamed N, Wang Y, Prasadan K, Gittes GK. Chemical Pancreatectomy Treats Chronic Pancreatitis While Preserving Endocrine Function in Preclinical Models. J Clin Invest. 2021; 131(3): e143301. Epub ahead of print.

More About Dr. Saleh

Mohamed Saleh, MD, is an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Division of Pediatric Endocrinology. His research focuses on pediatric diabetes and beta-cell biology with specific concentrations on the interaction between the exocrine and endocrine pancreas, and gene therapy to reprogram alpha cells into insulin-producing cells in type 2 diabetes mouse models. Dr. Saleh is a member of the Center for Pediatric Research in Obesity and Metabolism (CPROM) at UPMC Children’s. Dr. Saleh also is a research scientist in the Gittes Lab for Diabetes and Pancreatitis Research.