Marta Perez Alcantara
MSc, BSc (Hons)
I am a DPhil student interested in the role of islet development in type 2 diabetes susceptibility, supervised by Prof Mark McCarthy and Dr Ben Davies. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have found over 100 loci associated with type 2 diabetes (T2D), but the causal mechanisms of the disease remain unclear. Pancreatic islets play a role in the development of T2D, and although the contribution of developmental processes to disease susceptibility has not yet been established, several of the GWAS loci localise near known genes for islet development. I am investigating how islets are involved in T2D susceptibility through the omics analysis of an iPSC differentiation model of human endocrine pancreas cells (concretely, beta cells). I use transcriptomic and regulatory information to try to identify new genes involved in their development, and characterizing temporal patterns and networks of gene expression. I also want to use the bioinformatics information to inform the experimental analysis of certain T2D candidate genes in the laboratory. I want to use CRISPR to modulate the expression of these genes in specific stages of beta cell development, and assess how this alters the differentiation process.