New thesis on In vivo regulation of pancreatic beta cell function

Published 2018-03-19 15:49. Updated 2018-03-19 15:50Denna sida på svenska

Pim van Krieken from the research group Signal Transduction will defend his thesis "In vivo regulation of pancreatic beta cell function" on March 23, 2018. His main supervisor is Erwin Ilegems.

Pim van Krieken

What's the main focus of your thesis?

I have investigated a highly specialized type of endocrine cells found in the pancreas called beta cells. The main function of these beta cells is to secrete the glucose lowering hormone insulin. Thereby, beta cells play an important role in the regulation of blood glucose levels. It is known that not every beta cell functions the same way: some cells work harder than others. The function of individual beta cells can also change depending on the amount of insulin that the body needs. For instance, there is an increased demand for insulin during pregnancy or obesity. The dynamic process of functional adaptation is complex and difficult to simulate in isolated beta cells. Therefore, I have tried to study how beta cell function is regulated in the living organism.

Which are the most important results?

In my thesis I describe several innovative ways to study beta cells using intravital microscopy techniques. I developed new protocols to quantify changes in beta cell number and measure various parameters of beta cell function over time in the living organism. I further established and characterized a model system in which I could make individual beta cells work harder. By comparing normal and hardworking beta cells, I found a possible regulatory mechanism that beta cells employ to change their function . Furthermore, I developed a new approach to evaluate the role of specific genes of interest in the regulation of beta cell function.   

How can this new knowledge contribute to the improvement of people’s health?

Beta cell function is impaired in many forms of diabetes mellitus, a disease that affects 1 in 11 individuals. A better understanding of how the beta cell functions and what mechanisms it uses to adapt can help us explain what causes beta cell dysfunction and failure. Furthermore, the imaging approaches found in my thesis could in the future be used to improve the diagnosis of diabetes and evaluate the success of a treatment. In addition, the technological advancements I describe may help to engineer tailor-made beta cells that could be transplanted into patients lacking sufficient insulin production.

What are your future ambitions? 

I would like to continue my career in science, in a new environment and probably in another country. I especially like to work on technically challenging projects in which researchers from different disciplines need to work together to develop new strategies for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. My ambition is to do meaningful translational science, as close to the patient as possible.


Friday March 23rd, 2018 at 09:15, Lecture Hall A6:04 Karolinska University Hospital, Solna


In vivo regulation of pancreatic beta cell function