Research Summary

IBRI DIABETES CENTER (IDC) - MASTRACCI LAB

Focus: Pancreas development and differentiation, Cellular regeneration, Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease characterized by the progressive loss of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Individuals with diabetes overcome this beta cell destruction or dysfunction by daily administration of exogenous insulin – a viable and long-standing therapy. However, the long-term complications associated with diabetes are never truly eliminated. Research efforts have therefore moved to the generation of therapeutics that could ultimately fix, not just treat, the beta cell loss. Work in the Mastracci lab uses the mouse and zebrafish model systems to determine how cells in the pancreas develop, differentiate, and regenerate. In particular, we are interested in understanding the signals that are required to produce a healthy pancreas and functional insulin-producing beta cells, with the goal of applying this knowledge to the generation of therapeutics for type 1 diabetes.

Specific scientific areas of focus in the lab include:

Understanding polyamine and hypusine biosynthesis in pancreatic development and disease.

We are investigating key factors in the polyamine and hypusine biosynthesis pathway for their role in the processes of pancreatic and beta cell development, differentiation, and regeneration. The Mastracci lab was the first to describe a role for polyamine and hypusine biosynthesis in the development and differentiation of pancreatic exocrine and beta cells. We are continuing this research and utilizing both the mouse and zebrafish model systems as well as human pancreas tissue provided by the Network of Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes (nPOD) and the Integrated Islet Distribution Program (IIDP).

Determining the signals that induce beta cell regeneration

Zebrafish have several advantages over other model organisms including ease of genetic manipulation, a sequenced genome, rapid external development, high fecundity, extensive regenerative capabilities, and straightforward husbandry. These characteristics make the zebrafish an extraordinary model system for developmental studies, as well as studies that seek to understand cellular regeneration. We are utilizing zebrafish to identify novel pathways that can be targeted with small molecules to induce pancreatic beta cell regeneration. The IBRI Zebrafish Facility is directed by Dr. Mastracci and is being utilized to perform small molecule screens and assess the biology of specific targets to induce pancreatic beta cell regeneration.

Lab Team

Teresa Mastracci, PhD

Senior Scientist, IBRI Diabetes Center

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Indiana University

Postdoctoral Fellow 2012 Columbia University

PhD 2006 University of Toronto | BSc 1999 University of Guelph

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Craig Connors

Craig Connors

Assistant Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Craig Connors

Craig Connors

Assistant Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Craig Connors is an assistant research associate in the Mastracci lab, in the IBRI Diabetes Center (IDC). In this role, he is assisting with the analysis of genetic mouse models, which will provide a greater understanding of beta cell growth and regeneration.

He joined the Mastracci lab at the IBRI in 2017 first as a zebrafish technician before moving into his current role. Zebrafish are a model system used in diabetes research, especially for the study of pancreas development given that they closely resemble human organogenesis. Prior to the IBRI and since 2017, he was operations manager at The Reef Aquarium Shop in Indianapolis where he cared for and treated inventory, quarantined new arrivals as needed and ensured proper balance of freshwater and saltwater systems. Before working at the aquarium shop and since 2015, he worked as a husbandry and lab technician at the Herman B. Wells Research Center at Indiana University School of Medicine where he also maintained zebrafish systems for diverse experiments.

He earned his B.S. in Biology from Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI).

Teresa Mastracci

Teresa Mastracci, PhD

Assistant Investigator, IBRI Diabetes Center

Teresa Mastracci

Teresa Mastracci, PhD

Assistant Investigator, IBRI Diabetes Center

Teresa Mastracci, PhD, was hired as the first independent investigator to commence innovative scientific research at the Institute in the spring of 2016. Dr. Mastracci is a molecular and developmental biologist who comes to the IBRI from the Indiana University School of Medicine where she was an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research, and the Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases.

Mastracci completed her post-secondary education in Canada, earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of Guelph, and her PhD from the University of Toronto at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute. Mastracci moved on to postdoctoral studies at Columbia University and the Naomi Berrie Center for Diabetes Research in New York. Here she merged her interests in developmental biology and human disease by studying how the pancreatic insulin-producing beta cell develops and functions in the normal and diabetic contexts. In 2007, Mastracci was named the Naomi Berrie Fellow in Diabetes Research and was granted research support by the Russell Berrie Foundation. Subsequently in 2010, she was awarded a prestigious Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), which continued to support her career development and research. Together these fellowships were instrumental in launching Mastracci’s career in the field of diabetes research, and as a result she was recruited to the Indiana University School of Medicine where she continued to grow her research.

Currently, Mastracci is focused on understanding how pathways that direct protein synthesis drive the development and differentiation of the hormone-producing islet cells in the pancreas. This research is funded in part by a prestigious Career Development Award from the JDRF. The research goal of Mastracci's lab is to discover pathways that can be exploited to create new treatments that provoke the regeneration of the insulin-producing beta cells that are dysfunctional or destroyed in people with diabetes.

In addition to her primary appointment at the IBRI, Mastracci holds an adjunct Assistant Professor faculty position in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Indiana University School of Medicine. In 2017, Mastracci was recognized as one of the Indianapolis Business Journal's Forty Under 40 rising stars.

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Mastracci Lab

Studying the signals that permit pancreas development and beta cell regeneration, with the goal to generate novel therapeutics for type 1 diabetes.

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Morgan Robertson

Morgan Robertson

Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Morgan Robertson

Morgan Robertson

Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Morgan Robertson is a research associate in the Mastracci Lab in the IBRI Diabetes Center (IDC). In this role he is responsible for projects in regenerative medicine, consisting primarily of developmental biology and genetic-based research using the zebrafish and mouse model systems.

He joined the Mastracci Lab at the IBRI in 2016. Before joining the IBRI and since 2012, he worked at the Wells Center for Pediatric Research at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. At the Wells Center, he worked as a lab manager, research technician and research analyst on diabetes and islet biology-related research.

He earned his B.A. in biological sciences from DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.

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Past Members

Leah Padgett, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, IBRI, 2017-2020
PhD, Indiana University School of Medicine
Biotechnology Certificate, Indiana University School of Medicine
BS, Ball State University University

Paul Childress, PhD
Staff Scientist, IBRI, 2018-2019
PhD, Indiana University School of Medicine
MS, Indiana University School of Medicine
MS, Purdue University

Emily Anderson, PhD
Staff Scientist, IBRI, 2016-2018
Postdoctoral Fellowship - Indiana University School of Medicine
PhD, Vanderbilt University
BS, Center College

Madeline Smith
Summer Intern, IBRI, 2016
Undergraduate Student, DePauw University


Highlights and Publications

  • Mastracci TL*, Robertson MA, Mirmira RG, Anderson RM*. Polyamine biosynthesis is critical for growth and differentiation of the pancreas. Sci Rep. 2015 Aug 24;5:13269. doi:10.1038/srep13269. PMID: 26299433 *corresponding author
  • Mastracci TL, Anderson KR, Papizan J, Sussel L. Regulation of Neurod1 contributes to the lineage potential of Neurogenin3+ endocrine precursor cells in the pancreas. PLoS Genet. 2013 Feb;9(2). Epub 2013 Feb 7. PMCID: PMC3567185
  • Mastracci TL, Wilcox C, Panea C, Golden J, May CL, Sussel L. Nkx2.2 and Arx genetically interact to regulate pancreatic endocrine cell development and endocrine hormone expression. Dev Biol. 2011 Nov 1;359(1):1-11. Epub 2011 Aug 11. PMCID: PMC3192309.
  • Mastracci TL, Sussel L. The Endocrine Pancreas: insights into development, differentiation and diabetes. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Dev Biol. 2012 Sep-Oct;1(5):609- 28. Epub 2012 Mar 14. PMID:23799564. PMCID: PMC3420142.

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