About the Powers Research Group

Pancreatic islet cells are highly specialized mini-organs that secrete insulin, glucagon, and other hormones in response to physiologic stimuli such as glucose and regulate the blood glucose. A lack or a dysfunction of the insulin-producing, β cells of the islet is critical to the development of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

The Powers Research Group seeks to understand and reverse β cell and islet abnormalities and dysfunction in type 1 and type 2 diabetes and is working in these areas:

  1. How pancreatic islets become so extensively vascularized and innervated
  2. How islet cells grow, proliferate, and differentiate, and regenerate
  3. How β cells and the islet respond to the increased demands imposed by insulin resistance and obesity
  4. Development of technology to quantify, image, and target islets in the pancreas and after transplantation
  5. Study of the human pancreas and islet

To understand the pathogenesis of human diabetes, we are working to translate and integrate studies from animal models into human islet biology. Thus, a major focus is the study of human islets in vitro and in vivo and our group has established infrastructure and new approaches that allow the study of the human pancreas and islet. We are part of the NIH-funded Human Islet Research Network (HIRN).

The Powers Research Group at Vanderbilt (Vanderbilt Diabetes Center, Department of Medicine, and Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics) consists of research scientists, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, medical students, undergraduate students, and research assistants. We conduct interdisciplinary collaborations with scientists in several fields, including vascular biologists, developmental biologists, biomedical engineers, chemists, bioinformaticians, and physicists. Some of our collaborators are in the medical center or on the undergraduate campus at Vanderbilt (Department of Chemistry and School of Engineering) while others are spread around the world (Seattle, Palo Alto, Pasadena, Worcester, Boston, Bar Harbor, New York, Geneva, and Gainesville). At Vanderbilt, we participate in the bi-monthly meeting of pancreas and islet investigators, the Beta Cell Interest Group.



We are located in Nashville, TN, on the beautiful Vanderbilt University campus! Vanderbilt is a private research university and medical center and offers a wealth of research opportunities, resources and community!

MRB-IV Research Building


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7465 Medical Research Bldg IV
2215 Garland Avenue
Nashville, TN 37232-0475