A history of innovation and a vision of a cure drive UCSF’s leadership in diabetes. For nearly 80 years, many of the breakthrough discoveries in diabetes have occurred through UCSF basic science and clinical research, including the cloning of the human insulin gene, which made possible the unlimited supply of synthetic insulin that now is used to manage the disease in many patients.

 Matthias Hebrok, PhD, UCSF Diabetes Center Director

UCSF formed a comprehensive Diabetes Center in 2000, uniting clinicians, researchers and educators as an integrated team focused on improving the quality of life for those living with diabetes.

“‘Cure’ is a really big word,” says UCSF Diabetes Center Director Matthias Hebrok, PhD. “I do believe it is possible. I cannot predict when we will get there, but we truly are moving forward.” The center embraces the University’s commitment to basic science research and an ongoing effort to leverage those discoveries into improving patient care – a field known as translational medicine.

The pressure for results grows more acute every year, as the number of Americans with diabetes has more than tripled since 1980, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to more than 20 million people.

Diabetes is a disorder in which the body’s immune system compromises the way insulin regulates blood sugar. The two most common forms of the disease are type 1, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, in which the immune system destroys the pancreatic beta cells that make insulin, and type 2, characterized by the reduction of insulin production in the pancreas that is often coupled with an impaired ability of the body to use insulin properly.

Today, UCSF’s reputation of excellence in diabetes and immunology continues, supported by national rankings by US News & World Report. The 2010 survey on the nation’s best hospitals places UCSF patient care in diabetes at No. 2, and the survey on best graduate schools, which covers the quality and productivity of basic science research, places UCSF programs in immunology and infectious diseases also at No. 2.

The UCSF Diabetes Center was established by Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD, who has conducted groundbreaking research in diabetes, and who continues to maintain his laboratory investigations while serving as the University’s provost and executive vice chancellor.

The center is affiliated with the Immune Tolerance Network (ITN), an international consortium of leading scientific researchers and clinical specialists that focuses on testing new therapies for autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes.