July 14, 2005
Vol. 24 No. 19

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    Leading diabetes researchers will participate in symposium that honors Steiner

    By John Easton
    Medical Center Public Affairs

    Twenty-eight of the world’s leading diabetes researchers will gather in the Biological Sciences Learning Center Friday, July 15, to discuss their latest research and to celebrate the 75th birthday of Donald Steiner, the A.N. Pritzker Professor in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and a member of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University.

    Steiner (M.D.,’56), an international leader in insulin biology, insulin secretion, protein processing and diabetes, has revolutionized how scientists understand the production of hormones such as insulin. In 1965, Steiner discovered that the double-chain hormone insulin is made in the pancreas as proinsulin, a single chain that doubles back on itself. After proinsulin is secreted, enzymes trim away the segment connecting the two chains to produce insulin.

    “Proinsulin was the first ‘pro-hormone’ to be discovered,” said diabetes specialist Louis Philipson, Professor in Medicine and a symposium organizer. “It has served as a model of how many other polypeptide hormones are cleaved to become active and to be properly secreted.” The discovery of proinsulin also enabled the pharmaceutical industry to increase the purity of insulin preparations extracted from animals, which has improved the management of diabetes and created a better life for millions of diabetic patients worldwide.

    Steiner, working with colleagues at the University, discovered the first case of diabetes caused by abnormal insulin (which they labeled “insulin Chicago”). Later, he worked with a Japanese team to describe the first disorder caused by an abnormal insulin receptor.

    The symposium has been funded through educational grants from Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, NovoNordisk, Lilly, Abbott, Merck and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

    Keith Moffat, Deputy Provost for Research and the Louis Block Professor in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, will make the welcoming remarks when “The Donald F. Steiner Symposium: Exploring Pancreatic Beta Cells, Insulin Biology and Protein Processing” kicks off at 8:30 a.m.

    The symposium will conclude at the Quadrangle Club with a 6:30 p.m. birthday celebration dinner in Steiner’s honor. Ake Lernmark of the University of Washington, Seattle, and the University Hospital MAS, Malmö, Sweden, will give the keynote scientific presentation at the dinner.

    More information on the topics to be discussed and the session times for the symposium is available at http://donaldsteinerfest.com.