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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


Maki Nakayama, MD, PhD
Primary Appointment:  Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Secondary Appointment: Assistant Professor of Integrated Immunology



The ultimate goal of my research is to prevent and cure type 1 diabetes.  Type 1 diabetes is an organ-specific autoimmune disease in which pancreatic beta cells secreting insulin is destroyed by autoreactive T cells.  To understand the mechanism how anti-beta cell autoimmunity is initiated, my laboratory focuses on the tri-molecular complex consisting of antigen, major histocompatibility complex (MHC), and T cell receptor (TCR), which could be a key component for the development of type 1 diabetes. 
We discovered that a peptide contained in insulin itself is an essential antigen targeted by autoreactive T cells causing type 1 diabetes in the animal model.  If we can identify such essential antigens required for the development of human type 1 diabetes, blocking or regulating T cells targeting those antigens will enable us to prevent diabetes.  Thus, one of our major goals is to identify autoantigens critical for human type 1 diabetes.  Our approach is to directly identify TCR sequences of T cells infiltrating pancreatic islets of patients having type 1 diabetes and to further define antigen specificity of those TCRs. 
We also discovered that there is a TCR sequence that is sufficient to induce anti-insulin autoimmunity via a recognition of the essential insulin peptide in the animal model.  We are currently exploring the role of this TCR sequence in the development of type 1 diabetes in the animal model and are further seeking such specific TCR sequences for human type 1 diabetes, which might be able to be used as a target molecule for immunotherapy.
Lastly, given evidence of disease-associated “public” TCR sequences, which are shared by most of individuals developing type 1 diabetes, in the animal model, we pursue human TCR sequences that are potentially able to be used as T cell biomarker to predict the development of type 1 diabetes as well as recurrence of hyperglycemia after the pancreas transplantation or other clinical therapeutic trials.    
Lab Members: 

Laurie Landry, PhD
Teddy Williams

MD, Kobe University School of Medicine, Kobe, Japan (1994)
PhD, Kobe University School of Medicine, Kobe, Japan (2002)


Please direct inquiries to specific e-mail addresses listed within individual entries. For all other general Research inquiries, please contact:Kathryn Gray