Young COM investigator recognized for contributions to diabetes research

Michael Haller, M.D., UF College of Medicine diabetes researcher, recently received the Young Investigator Award from an international diabetes society. At its annual meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina in October, the International Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes recognized the 35-year-old for his work toward preventing and reversing type 1 diabetes.

Haller began working in type 1 diabetes research during his first year of medical school at UF where, after graduating in 2000, he stayed to complete residency training in pediatrics and a fellowship in pediatric endocrinology.

Barrett Ross receives an infusion of stem cells removed from his umbilical cord blood at the UF Clinical Research Center. Barrett is participating in a nationwide study to determine if cells from a patient's own cord blood could help slow or even stop the progression of diabetes. UF pediatric endocrinologist Michael Haller (right), is the study’s lead investigator.

Haller, an assistant professor of endocrinology, and his colleagues at UF’s Diabetes Center of Excellence focus on preventing and reversing type 1 diabetes. Scientists and physicians investigate drug therapies developed for other diseases, such as cancer and organ transplantation, thathave been shown to reverse disease in mice with diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes, is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. It is an autoimmune disease in which the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed by the immune system, requiring daily insulin replacement and frequent blood sugar checks by patients.

At the ISPAD annual meeting, Haller presented a lecture on current type 1 diabetes intervention trials at UF, including a novel study that aims to determine if autologous umbilical cord blood stem cells combined with other low risk interventions such as oral vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids can be used as a potential immunotherapy for type 1 diabetes.

The UF cord blood studies began with minimal funding through an innovative grant from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The project has grown into a multimillion-dollar, multi-site JDRF center award focusing on the potential of autologous cord blood-based therapies and includes a thorough bench-to-bedside approach in evaluating cord blood.