University of Minnesota
MICaB Graduate Program
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MICaB Faculty

Christopher Burlak, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Scientific Program Director, Schulze Diabetes Institute

Department of Surgery

Medical College of Ohio, 2003, Ph.D.

612-625-7912 office

Research Interests:

Diabetes, Transplantation Immunology, Genetic Engineering

I am focused on curing type 1 diabetes through creating genetically modified pigs to be islet cell donors. We will reach this goal by understanding the recipient immune interactions with pig islet cell clusters and developing highly sensitive techniques to monitor transplanted cells. We are developing highly sensitive methods for detecting damage to transplanted pig islet cells in non human primate models. Additionally, we have leveraged our understanding of the NHP and human immune responses to islet cell clusters to make unique genetic modifications to the DNA of pigs. Pigs carrying genetic modifications to cell surface glycoproteins give rise to stealth islets that may go unnoticed by the recipient immune system.

Student projects in the Burlak lab involve:

  1. Understanding the basic immunology of Type 1 Diabetes,
  2. Analyzing the cellular and humoral immunological responses of non-human primates before and after islet transplantation.
  3. Characterization of blood borne biomarkers to detect pancreas or islet cell damage and stress.
  4. Genetically engineering pigs to be islet donors for xenotransplantation.
  5. Developing new approaches for modifying DNA to control gene expression.