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Welcome to the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes at the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado.

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Research Division Faculty


Aaron Michels, MD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine
Director of Clinical Immunology at the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes
Director, CLIA Laboratory for Islet Autoantibody & HLA Service Center at the Barbara Davis Center
Frieda and George S. Eisenbarth Clinical Immunology Endowed Chair


Photo from left to right: Stephanie Case, Kristen McDaniel, Carol Kiekhaefer, Aaron Michels

My laboratory at the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes is focused on studying the immunology of autoimmune diseases, with a particular focus on type 1 diabetes.  Having lived with type 1 diabetes for the more than 20 years, it is my career goal to contribute to the prevention and ultimately a cure for the disease. 

Currently, type 1 diabetes is a predictable disease with the measurement of antibodies directed against proteins from the beta cell; however it is not yet a preventable disease.  Our research focuses on understanding the underlying immunology of diabetes and how human leukocyte antigen alleles confer disease risk and protection. We are working in collaboration with academic and industrial partners to identify therapeutic interventions, understand drug mechanisms, and translate relevant findings into clinical trials.

We discovered that small ‘drug-like’ molecules targeted to MHC class II antigen presentation can block T cell responses and prevent diabetes onset in animal models of spontaneous autoimmune diabetes.   Using results from these preclinical studies, we are translating the findings to patients in attempts to prevent disease onset and preserve beta cell function after diagnosis. In humans, HLA-DQ8 and/or DQ2 confer substantial disease risk and are present in 90% of people with type 1 diabetes.  We are now testing the concept of blocking a specific MHC class II allele, HLA-DQ8, in a clinical trial with recent onset type 1 diabetes patients ( NCT01883804).  

Principal Investigtor: Aaron Michels, MD

Postdoctoral Fellow: CarolKiekhaefer, MD, PhD

Professional Research Assistants: Stephanie Case, BS; Kristen McDaniel, BS

Recent Publications:
  1. Atkinson MA, Eisenbarth GS, Michels AW. Type 1 diabetes. Lancet. 2014 Jan 4;383(9911):69-82.

  2. Michels AW. Targeting the trimolecular complex. Clin Immunol. 2013 Dec;149(3):339-44.
  3. Michels AW, Ostrov DA, Zhang L, Nakayama M, Fuse M, Mcdaniel K, Roep BO, Gottlieb PA, Atkinson MA, and Eisenbarth GS.  Structure-based selection of small molecules to alter allele-specific MHC class II antigen presentation.  Journal of Immunology  2011 Dec 1; 187(11):5921-30.

  4. Crawford F, Stadinski B, Jin N, Michels A, Nakayama M, Pratt P, Marrack P, Eisenbarth G, and Kappler JW. The specificity and detection of insulin reactive CD4+ T cells in type-1 diabetes in the NOD mouse. PNAS 2011 108(40):16729-34.

Publications List:

To access a more complete listing of publications, please go to PubMed and use the search term Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes or enter individual author names.
Please direct inquiries to specific e-mail addresses listed within individual entries. For all other general Research inquiries, please contact: