Autoimmune diseases, type-1 diabetes (T1D) being a classic example, currently afflict around 7% of the population of developed countries. While much progress has been made in deciphering disease mechanisms, many critical issues remain unresolved. A significant hindrance to both mechanistic and therapeutic advances has been the difficulty of dealing with disease entities diagnosed so late in their course, well after the inciting phenomena have played out. Recent impressive advances in the imaging field offer great hope for side-stepping such problems, constituting a powerful impetus for the collaborative Joslin Diabetes Center (JDC)/Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) imaging program. The program's major objectives are to develop novel imaging strategies, and to exploit them to address critical unresolved issues concerning autoimmune disease in animal models and, ultimately, in human patients. To accomplish these goals efficaciously, the program has been devised around a unique marriage of skills: groups of imaging scientists based at the Center for Molecular Imaging Research at the MGH and groups of immunologists (and more recently (3-cell biologists) at the JDC. These teams collaborate in the context of four projects and one core, whose perspectives include: development of novel imaging probes and modalities;validation in mouse experiments;application to mechanistic issues and establishment of proof-of-principle in murine disease models;and translation to diagnostic or therapeutic problems in the clinic. A palette of imaging target types (microvascular/cellular/molecular/enzymatic) and visualization methods [magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)/positron emission tomography (PET)/confocal and intravital microscopy (IVM)/fluorescence-mediated tomography (FMT), fluorescent-protein tomography (FPT) and mesoscopic fluorescence tomography (FMT) are exploited, and multiple autoimmune diseases (T1 D/arthritis) have been considered. During the past funding cycle, the collaborative imaging program's most significant achievements have been: first, the development of a novel method to non-invasively image pancreatic inflammation in mouse models of T1D, relying on MRI visualization of magnetic nanoparticles (MNP) to read out vascular changes and macrophage activity, a method rapidly translated to a human clinical trial;second, establishment of a new confocal IVM technique to image vascular leak in the joint, resulting in an original concept on the organ-specificity of this disease;third, successful establishment of a novel methodology for non-invasively visualizing fluorescencetagged p-cells in the pancreas of a live mouse (FPT);fourth, development of novel confocal IVM and MFT methods to visualize the pancreas, either exteriorized from a live mouse or as a 3D reconstruction after excision, respectively;and Fifth, substantial improvements in the quality of human pancreas imaging. During the next funding cycle, several of the program's components have evolved to exploit emerging opportunities and to focus specifically on pancreatic islets in the T1D context. Project 1 will continue to develop new imaging probes and modalities, and to perform validation experiments, this cycle focusing on novel in vivo imaging agents with specificity for islet p cells. Both high-throughput screening and candidate approaches will be taken. Project 2 will exploit FPT to establish a novel triple-transgenic mouse system to co-image p-cell mass and p-cell functionality, use the system to address outstanding issues concerning T1D, and continue to exploit MNPMRI to address T1D pathophysiology. Project 3 will employ a combination of MFT and confocal IVM to interrogate the activities of various lymphocyte players in the murine islet lesion. Project 4 will continue and expand the ongoing clinical trial aimed at assessing the value of MNP-MRI as a means of monitoring the unfolding of T1D in humans. The Core will persist in providing service (image acquisition, data analysis) and development (FTP, MFT, clinical microvascular imaging) functions. Some major strengths of this program are that it attacks a critical issue, mobilizes a distinguished group of Pis, is unusually interactive, showed substantial progress over the last funding cycle, and opens a vista of exciting future perspectives. Its uniqueness resides in certain of its resources (imaging probes and modalities, mouse models, patient collections), and in the multiple axes of interaction: imagers/immunologists, physical/chemical/biological inputs, basic/clinical research. The resulting cross-fertilization will almost certainly continue to result in novel solutions to the persisting problems posed by autoimmune disease.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Research Program Projects (P01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZAI1-SV-I (S1))
Program Officer
Bourcier, Katarzyna
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Harvard University
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Mohan, James F; Kohler, Rainer H; Hill, Jonathan A et al. (2017) Imaging the emergence and natural progression of spontaneous autoimmune diabetes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 114:E7776-E7785
Clardy, Susan M; Mohan, James F; Vinegoni, Claudio et al. (2015) Rapid, high efficiency isolation of pancreatic ß-cells. Sci Rep 5:13681
Magnuson, Angela M; Thurber, Greg M; Kohler, Rainer H et al. (2015) Population dynamics of islet-infiltrating cells in autoimmune diabetes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 112:1511-6
Gaglia, Jason L; Harisinghani, Mukesh; Aganj, Iman et al. (2015) Noninvasive mapping of pancreatic inflammation in recent-onset type-1 diabetes patients. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 112:2139-44
Fu, Wenxian; Farache, Julia; Clardy, Susan M et al. (2014) Epigenetic modulation of type-1 diabetes via a dual effect on pancreatic macrophages and ? cells. Elife 3:e04631
Hedgire, Sandeep S; McDermott, Shaunagh; Wojtkiewicz, Gregory R et al. (2014) Evaluation of renal quantitative T2* changes on MRI following administration of ferumoxytol as a T2* contrast agent. Int J Nanomedicine 9:2101-7
Dirice, Ercument; Kahraman, Sevim; Jiang, Wenyu et al. (2014) Soluble factors secreted by T cells promote ?-cell proliferation. Diabetes 63:188-202
Morton, Angela M; Sefik, Esen; Upadhyay, Rabi et al. (2014) Endoscopic photoconversion reveals unexpectedly broad leukocyte trafficking to and from the gut. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 111:6696-701
Stangenberg, Lars; Burzyn, Dalia; Binstadt, Bryce A et al. (2014) Denervation protects limbs from inflammatory arthritis via an impact on the microvasculature. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 111:11419-24
Clardy, Susan M; Keliher, Edmund J; Mohan, James F et al. (2014) Fluorescent exendin-4 derivatives for pancreatic ?-cell analysis. Bioconjug Chem 25:171-7

Showing the most recent 10 out of 34 publications