Leading Metabolics Researcher Joins UC San Diego School of Medicine

Alan Saltiel will head unified effort to create comprehensive diabetes center —

Alan R. Saltiel, PhD, whose studies of the hormone insulin have helped drive research of obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disorders across the nation, is joining University of California, San Diego School of Medicine as professor and director of a new Comprehensive Diabetes Center.

Saltiel, who most recently served as director of the Life Sciences Institute at University of Michigan, will bring together and expand UC San Diego’s diverse programs to better understand and treat diabetes and other metabolic disorders. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom

Dr. Saltiel joins the Department of Medicine as professor in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

New Division Chief and Vice Chief of Endocrinology and Metabolism

Announced July 28, 2014, by Wolfgang H. Dillmann, MD, Helen M. Ranney Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine

Dr. Nicholas Webster

Nicholas Webster, PhD

I am pleased to announce that an internal review committee has selected Dr. Nick Webster as the new chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism in the Department of Medicine. Dr. Nai-Wen Chi has been selected to serve as vice chief.

Wolfgang H. Dillmann, MD

Wolfgang H. Dillmann, MD

I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Nick Webster, who accepted the role of interim division chief after I stepped down in 2010. In leading the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism for the past four years, Dr. Webster has done an important service for the division and the department.

Nick Webster, PhD, professor of medicine, is Associate Director for Shared Resources at the Moores Cancer Center and holds a joint appointment as a Senior Research Career Scientist at the VA San Diego Healthcare System. He is a highly respected researcher and thought leader in the field of endocrinology and metabolism.

Dr. Webster earned his B.A. and M.A. from Cambridge University and his Ph.D. from Stanford University.  After a post-doctoral fellowship at the CNRS in Strasbourg, France, he joined the UCSD faculty in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism in 1989 and was promoted to Professor in 2006.

Dr. Webster has been very active in service to the University and the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS).  He has held a number of leadership positions at UCSD, including Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Facilities in the Office of Research Affairs, where his portfolio included oversight of the animal welfare program and university-wide shared resources.  Dr. Webster has served as chair of a number of university committees, including the Radiation Safety and Surveillance Committee, the Animal Program Oversight Committee, the Recruitment and Admission Committee for the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, the Shared Resources Oversight Committee, and the Research Space Committees at the VASDHS.

Over the past 25 years, Dr. Webster has maintained an active research program, which is broadly focused on the mechanisms of hormonal signal transduction and gene regulation in different developmental and disease contexts.  He actively participates in the Center for Reproductive Science and Medicine, the Diabetes Research Center, and the Center for Transdisciplinary Research in Energetics and Cancer.

Nai-Wen Chi, MD, PhD

Nai-Wen Chi, MD, PhD

The newly appointed vice chair of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Dr. Nai-Wen Chi, is a researcher and board-certified endocrinologist at the UCSD Medical Center and the VA. Dr. Chi earned his M.D. from National Taiwan University prior to receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard University, where he was mentored by Dr. Richard Kolodner in investigating the molecular machinery that maintains the yeast mitochondrial genome.  Dr. Chi then completed his medical residency and endocrine fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital.  During his postdoctoral fellowship at MIT, he was mentored by Dr. Harvey Lodish in identifying novel insulin-signaling molecules that regulate vesicular trafficking.

Dr. Chi joined the UCSD faculty in 2000 and has been the director of the Endocrine Fellowship since 2005.  His clinical interest focuses on dysnatremias while his research program takes biochemical and genetic approaches to investigate the pathophysiology of diabetes and obesity.

Please join me in giving your enthusiastic support to Drs. Nick Webster and Nai-Wen Chi in their new positions of leadership in the Department of Medicine.

Checkup Diabetes: the Latest Research and Treatments from UC San Diego

News Feature from the UC San Diego Health System Newsroom

Checkup Diabetes: the latest research and treatments at UC San Diego

by Scott LaFee

Diabetes is a monumental public health issue, not just because millions of Americans have been diagnosed with the metabolic disease, but also for the many more millions who either remain undiagnosed or have signs suggesting they will likely become diabetic. .. Read the full news feature from the UC San Diego Health System newsroom

Dr. Pradipta Ghosh Receives Clinical Research Mentorship Grant from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

Dr. Pradipta Ghosh

Three years ago, Department of Medicine physician-scientist Dr. Pradipta Ghosh received a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Clinical Scientist Development Award to support her in the transition from junior researcher to independent investigator.

The grant funded her research for three fruitful years as she moved from assistant to associate professor and landed a five-year R01 research grant from the National Cancer Institute.

Now, Ghosh has won DDCF funding again — this time a Clinical Research Mentorship Grant to support her in mentoring medical student Gary Ma in the project, “Molecular Rheostats in Type II Diabetes – Novel Therapeutic Targets for Insulin Resistance.”

The DDCF Clinical Research Mentorship program is a competitive grant program that supports the development of a mentoring relationship between a clinical scientist previously funded through the foundation and a medical student with an interest in becoming a future clinician investigator.

This DDCF program funded 10 mentor/mentee teams this year.

About Dr. Ghosh

Pradipta Ghosh, MD, MBBS, is associate professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology. She is a graduate of the UC San Diego Internal Medicine Residency Training Program, the Gastroenterology Fellowship Training Program and the Department of Medicine Physician-Scientist Training Program.

In her laboratory, Ghosh investigates the cell biology of signal transduction to find new ways to understand and block the development and spread of cancer and other diseases. Her National Cancer Institute research grant supports the project, “Modulation of G Proteins by Growth Factors.”

Looking back at the development of her career, she cites two important mentors, Drs. Stuart Kornfeld and Marilyn Farquhar.

“Stuart Kornfeld and Marilyn Farquhar are spectacular examples of good mentors and what good mentoring involves,” she said. “Being accessible, empowering, ensuring the freedom to probe, to expand the horizon.”

Stuart Kornfeld, MD, is David C. and Betty Farrell Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Director of the Division of Hematology at Washington University in St. Louis, where he directs the Medical Scientist Training Program and co-directs the Physician-Scientist Training Program.

Marilyn Farquhar, PhD, is Distinguished Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Pathology at UC San Diego.

About Her Mentor/Mentee Research Project

Abstract of the Study, “Molecular Rheostats in Type II Diabetes – Novel Therapeutic Targets for Insulin Resistance.”

“The overall goal of the proposed research is to unravel the mechanisms by which [Gα-interacting, vesicle-associated protein] (GIV) maintains insulin sensitivity and how its phosphoinhibition generates Insulin resistance (IR). Insights gained will not only help determine whether GIV can serve as a therapeutic target and a marker for prognosticating response to therapy in patients with IR, but also help decipher, access, and manipulate the entire signaling network to restore physiologic insulin response.”

A New Protein Target for Controlling Diabetes

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified a previously unknown biological mechanism involved in the regulation of pancreatic islet beta cells, whose role is to produce and release insulin. The discovery suggests a new therapeutic target for treating dysfunctional beta cells and type 2 diabetes, a disease affecting more than 25 million Americans. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Dr. Jerrold OlefskyPrincipal Investigator Jerrold M. Olefsky, MD, is Associate Dean for Scientific Affairs and Distinguished Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Study report coauthors from the Department of Medicine are Hui Dong, PhD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology; and Yun Sok Lee, Hidetaka Morinaga, and William Lagakos in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Citation for the report: Yun Sok Lee, Hidetaka Morinaga, Jane J. Kim, William Lagakos, Susan Taylor, Malik Keshwani, Guy Perkins, Hui Dong, Ayse G. Kayali, Ian R. Sweet, Jerrold Olefsky. The Fractalkine/CX3CR1 System Regulates β Cell Function and Insulin Secretion. Cell – 11 April 2013 (Vol. 153, Issue 2, pp. 413-425)  |  Read the report summary

Other Recent UCSD News Stories about Dr. Olefsky’s Work

Four Common Antipsychotic Drugs Found to Lack Safety and Effectiveness in Older Adults

In older adults, antipsychotic drugs are commonly prescribed off-label for a number of disorders outside of their Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved indications – schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The largest number of antipsychotic prescriptions in older adults is for behavioral disturbances associated with dementia, some of which carry FDA warnings on prescription information for these drugs.

In a new study – led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, Stanford University and the University of Iowa, and funded by the National Institute of Mental Health – four of the antipsychotics most commonly prescribed off label for use in patients over 40 were found to lack both safety and effectiveness. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Department of Medicine endocrinology and metabolism researchers Robert R. Henry, MD, and Sunder Mudaliar, MD, are coinvestigators in the study of the antipsychotic drugs.Dr. Robert R. Henry

Robert R. Henry, MD, is professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology & Metabolism at UC San Diego. At the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS), he is Chief of the Section of Endocrinology, Metabolism & Diabetes and Director of the Center for Metabolic Research.

Sunder Mudaliar, MD, is health sciences clinical professor in the Division of Endocrinology & Metabolism at UCSD. He is extensively involved in medical teaching and clinical care at the VASDHS. As an investigator in the Center for Metabolic Research, he performs clinical research focused on the prevention and treatment of diabetes.

More information:

Citation for the study report: Jin H, Shih PB,Golshan S, Mudaliar S, Henry R, Glorioso DK, Arndt S, Kraemer HC, Jeste DV. Comparison of Longer-Term Safety and Effectiveness of 4 Atypical Antipsychotics in Patients Over Age 40: A Trial Using Equipoise-Stratified Randomization. E-pub ahead of print, November 27, 2012, The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Insulin Resistance, Inflammation and a Muscle-Saving Protein

In the online May 2 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine publish three distinct articles exploring:

  • the complex interactions of lipids and inflammation in insulin resistance
  • the roles of omega 3 fatty acids and a particular gene in fighting inflammation
  • how elevated levels of a particular protein might delay the muscle-destroying effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Type 2 diabetes has reached epidemic proportions around the world … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Dr. Jerrold Olefsky
Dr. Jerrold Olefsky coauthored two of the three articles published:

  • Perspective article: Inflammation and Lipid Signaling in the Etiology of Insulin Resistance – Free full text
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids and GPR120 – Article summary

Dr. Olefsky is Associate Dean for Scientific Affairs, UC San Diego Health Sciences; and Distinguished Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Knocking Out Key Protein in Mice Boosts Insulin Sensitivity

By knocking out a key regulatory protein, scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland dramatically boosted insulin sensitivity in lab mice, an achievement that opens a new door for drug development and the treatment of diabetes…. Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Dr. Jerrold Olefsky

Senior author of the study is Jerrold M. Olefsky, MD, pictured above. Dr. Olefsky is Associate Dean for Scientific Affairs, UC San Diego Health Sciences, and Distinguished Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism.  | Read the summary of the study report in Cell

Dr. Seth Field Elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation

Dr. Seth FieldSeth J. Field, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, has been elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI).

ASCI membership is a distinction that recognizes the nation’s most outstanding physician-scientists.

“Seth is a highly innovative biomedical researcher, a caring clinician, and a teacher who devotes himself to mentoring learners at all levels,” said Wolfgang Dillmann, MD, Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Medicine, who supported Dr. Field’s nomination. “He embodies the ideals of the ASCI.”

“It has been a pleasure to watch Seth’s career take off and succeed at UCSD,” said Jerrold M. Olefsky, MD, who proposed Dr. Field’s nomination. “He’s an outstanding and incisive scientist who still manages to be an exceptional clinician and teacher.”

Dr. Olefsky is Associate Dean for Scientific Affairs and Distinguished Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Dr. Field has earned international recognition and major extramural funding for his original research. His investigations focus on the metabolism and signaling pathways of phosphoinositides, a group of lipid signaling molecules implicated in the pathophysiology of a range of human diseases.  |  Visit his laboratory website

“His findings,” said Dr. Dillmann, “have catalyzed a major paradigm shift in our understanding of the export of proteins from the cell.”

In 2009, Dr. Field and coworkers discovered that the Golgi protein GOLPH3 binds to phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate in the trans-Golgi membranes and connects the Golgi to F-actin via binding the unconventional myosin MYO18A. The resulting tensile force plays an important role in the secretory pathway by drawing vesicles and tubules from the Golgi. In the process, the Golgi apparatus acquires its characteristic stretched and flattened shape.

Dr. Field and colleagues reported the finding in the journal Cell in October 2009. The discovery, announced in a UC San Diego press release, earned worldwide attention.  |  Read the report in Cell (free full text)

Now, in one of many subsequent studies, Dr. Field is examining how GOLPH3 may function to cause cancer and whether there are potential therapeutic targets in the GOLPH3 pathway. GOLPH3 has been identified as a cancer gene commonly associated with human cancers, including breast cancer.

This work is supported by a 5-year, $3.8 million Era of Hope Scholar Award for Breast Cancer Research he received last year from the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.

Dr. Field collaborated with Judith A. Varner, PhD, and coworkers in the tumor inflammation studies reported in the June 14, 2011, issue of the journal Cancer Cell. They have identified a single point at which myeloid cells are triggered to enter cancer cells and promote tumor growth: the PI-3 kinase-gamma enzyme. The report, pinpointing what may be an important new therapeutic target for cancer treatments, was highlighted in a mini-review in the same journal.  |  Read the report in Cancer Cell (free full text)

Dr. Field has also collaborated with Dr. Ronald Evans and coworkers in the Gene Expression Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in defining a novel negative feedback pathway for insulin signaling. The results identify a new target area for the development of insulin-sensitizing drugs.

In 2008, Dr. Field was honored with an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, a five-year, $ 2.3-million research grant. Recipients of the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award are selected for the exceptional creativity and potential impact of their research.

In an earlier honor that brought major funding, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund granted Dr. Field a Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences in 2004. The five-year, $500,000 career awards are given to support outstanding postdoctoral researchers in their transition from advanced training to academic faculty service. The funding supported Dr. Field’s project, “Comprehensive analysis of phosphoinositide function.”

An active teacher in the Department of Medicine’s education programs, Dr. Field is also a member of the teaching and research faculty of the UC San Diego Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program. In addition, he is an investigator in the Cancer Biology program at the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

Dr. Field received his MD degree from Harvard Medical School and his PhD in Genetics in the laboratory of Michael E. Greenberg, PhD, at Harvard. After his internship and residency in internal medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, he completed his fellowship in endocrinology at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

He returned to Harvard for his postdoctoral research training in cell biology and systems biology in the laboratory of Lewis C. Cantley, PhD. In 2005, he joined the UC San Diego Department of Medicine faculty as an assistant professor in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Dr. Field and the other honorees for 2011, including Dr. Maike Sander from UC San Diego’s Department of Pediatrics, were introduced April 16 at the annual joint meeting of the ASCI and the Association of American Physicians in Chicago.

With the addition of Dr. Field, the ASCI now includes 63 current members of the faculty of the Department of Medicine.

Research Profile: Dr. Steven Chessler Awarded R01 Grant for Diabetes Research

Dr. Steven ChesslerSteven D. Chessler, MD PhD, has received a 5-year, nearly $2 million R01 grant award from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) for his diabetes research.

Dr. Chessler, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology & Metabolism, focuses his investigations on diabetes and pancreatic islet function.This major funding award will further his studies of the insulin-secreting pancreatic islet beta cells.In type 1 diabetes, autoimmune processes cause damage and dysfunction in these beta cells.

In type 2 diabetes, the beta cells gradually fail, though the reason is unknown.  |  Read the public abstract of Dr. Chessler’s R01 grant

“To develop new treatments for diabetes,” Dr. Chessler says, “we have to gain a better understanding of the biology of the beta cells and the pancreatic islets in which they reside.”

Dr. Chessler and his coworkers have already uncovered new aspects of the insulin secretion system.In a study they reported in Endocrinology last year, they found that beta cells express three families of synaptic cell surface proteins that occur in neurons in the central nervous system.Further, they found that two of the protein families, neuroligins and neurexins, appear to play a role in insulin secretion.  |   Read the abstract of the Endocrinology report

With the R01 award, Dr. Chessler will take the next steps to define the precise role of these cell-surface proteins in beta cell function and assess their potential as therapeutic targets.

Through this work, Dr. Chessler also hopes to identify safe and noninvasive ways to detect and monitor the quantity of pancreatic islet beta cells.

Such a tool would help researchers determine whether a potential new treatment is effective in preventing or reversing the loss of the insulin production capability.

Dr. Chessler’s grant is “Neuroligins and Neuroligin-Neurexin Interactions in Islet Beta Cell Function.”