Raphael Scharfmann is Research Director at INSERM working on intercellular signals
controlling pancreatic development. Raphael Scharfmann’s team has worked on this topic for more than 15 years. Raphael Scharfmann also founded EndoCells a biotech aiming at generating human endocrine cell lines and his lab collaborates with EndoCells to develop human beta cell lines. Raphael Scharfmann obtained his PhD in 1989 at University Paris VII, France. He next did a post doc at the Salk Institute (1989-1991) and obtained a permanent position at INSERM at the end of 1991. In 1999, he obtained the prestigious Minkowski Award (for distinguished research in the field of Diabetes in Europe). He is now research director at INSERM within the Growth and Signaling Center (Faculty Necker, University Paris Descartes). The major objective of his group is to define intercellular signals regulating beta cell development.
Type-1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune destruction of insulin producing beta cells resulting in insulin deficiency. Insulin therapy is unsatisfactory since it does not prevent complications associated to type-1 diabetes. Thus defining new strategies (cell or regenerative therapies) as basis to cure diabetic patients represents a major challenge. Beta cells develop from pancreatic progenitors that proliferate and next differentiate into functional insulin-producing cells. This is a complex process, each step being controlled by specific signals. Theoretically, beta cell mass can be enhanced by: i) activating the proliferation of pancreatic progenitors; ii) activating their differentiation into beta cells; iii) activating the proliferation of beta cells themselves. During the past years, we developed tools based on rodent models to search for signals controlling each step of beta cell development. We also developed strategies to transfer to reconstituted human models, data generated in rodent models. With this approach,we are generating new results and hypotheses concerning signals controlling each step of pancreatic development.