National Graduate Course in Islet Biology

We are excited to announce that our for-credit online course for graduate students interested in islet biology is once again being offered by the University of Toronto in 2022.

This course consists of two modules:

Islet Biology I: Gene to Cell to Organ to Disease

Islet Biology II: Beyond Glucose Control: Molecular Targets, Diagnostics and Cutting-edge Technologies

Lectures in each module cover a wide array of islet biology topics and will be delivered by over 20 CIRTN-R2FIC members.

For more information, please visit the links above or contact course coordinators Rob Screaton and Erin Mulvihill.

Highlighted Trainees

Janyne Johnson

PhD Candidate, Peter Light Lab


Training: BSc Hons (Physiology), University of Alberta

Awards: University of Alberta Graduate Entrance Award (Honorary), HRD-ADI Fellowship (Helmholtz Zentrum Munich Research School of Diabetes and Alberta Diabetes Institute) 

Project: My current project focuses on the production of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) in pancreatic alpha cells. Right now, I am working with an alpha cell-like tumor cell line (aTC1/6 cells) and FACS purified human islets. I’d like to understand why alpha cell GLP-1 production is upregulated in Type-2 Diabetes, and how its expression is altered by physiological stimuli. When I’m not too busy with my own project, I offer my help to colleagues with tissue isolation, cell sorting, and immunofluorescent histology.

Techniques: Microscopy, histology, tissue culture, ELISA, FACS and flow cytometry, qPCR.

About: I enjoy playing the piano, baking sweet treats for my coworkers, drinking coffee, and spending time outside. You can catch me skiing out in Silver Star at this year’s A-BC Islet Workshop (oh yeah, also presenting my project)!

Purushothaman Kuppan

Postdoctoral Fellow, Greg Korbutt Lab


Training: PhD (Tissue Engineering and Nanotechnology)

Awards: JDRF Postdoctoral Fellowship (2017-2020)

Project: My first project that I have been working on is drug-eluting microparticles (dexamethasone and cyclosporine A) to deliver these drugs to the localized islet graft environment. Systemic immunosuppression creates an unfavourable microenvironment for the islets as well as the recipients. Therefore, I demonstrated the efficacy of these Dex-eluting or CsA-eluting micelles for syngeneic and allograft murine islet transplant studies. Furthermore, I scaled up and tested this localized microparticles drug delivery approach in a preclinical porcine large animal model.

My second project is that I have been working on various types of scaffolds such as hydrogels, electrospun nanofibrous scaffolds, and bio-printed scaffolds. I recently optimized and fabricated a fibrous device made of poly (caprolactone) (PCL), poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) and PLGA+Gelatin (PLGA+G) system. These scaffolds exhibited extensive vascularization and complete tissue integration with host tissues. Furthermore, PLGA+G scaffold had exhibited superior NPI engraftment and function in immune compromised B6 Rag mice compared to PCL scaffolds. I have been testing this PLGA+G scaffold in a large porcine model and I have observed promising outcomes.

Techniques: Single emulsion, electrospinning, and islet allo- and xenotransplantation.

About: Outside of the lab, I enjoy spending time with my family.