Dr. Vincenzo Cirulli and Dr. Laura Crisa (Department of Medicine), together with Dr. Marta Scatena (Department of Bioengineering) have been awarded a Research Award totaling $1,000,000 from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation entitled “Decoding microenvironmental signals promoting beta cell differentiation”. The objective of this multi-Investigator research effort is to reconstruct an in vitro micro-environmental niche that mimics in vivo-like conditions capable of eliciting stem cell maturation toward the pancreatic islet cell lineage. The project will focus on reconstructing tissue-like 3D culture model systems in which the extracellular environment can be modulated to study the effects of matrix stiffness and composition, and heterotypic cell interactions on stem cell ability to differentiate into pancreatic progenitors and ultimately islet cells. Drs. Cirulli and Crisa are Associate Professors within the Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology and Nutrition.