The Bornfeldt Laboratory

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Welcome to the Bornfeldt Laboratory

Dedicated to understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of diabetes-accelerated cardiovascular disease


The Bornfeldt laboratory is dedicated to understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of diabetes-accelerated cardiovascular disease, so that these complications can be effectively treated or prevented.

People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes have a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease (myocardial infarction, stroke, and peripheral cardiovascular disease, which can lead to the necessity to amputate limbs) caused by atherosclerosis.  These complications also develop earlier in life than in people without diabetes.  Risk factors for cardiovascular disease associated with diabetes include sub-optimal metabolic control and lipid abnormalities, such as increased levels of triglycerides and decreased HDL cholesterol.

Bornfeldt Lab - Lesions Image

Stages of atherosclerosis accelerated by diabetes. A cross-section of a normal artery (upper left) shows an open lumen for unobstructed blood flow. The normal artery consists of smooth muscle cells (red) and elastin filaments (black). A single layer of endothelial cells lines the lumen. Diabetes accelerates the formation of lesions of atherosclerosis in arteries. In early stage lesions (lower left), circulating immune cells (monocytes) have invaded the arterial wall and matured into macrophages. The smooth muscle cells have started to grow and move into the developing lesion. In advanced stages of atherosclerosis (right) that develop over time the lesions can be very large and almost occlude the lumen. There are pockets of macrophages, smooth muscle cells, cholesterol accumulation in structures called cholesterol clefts, and necrotic cores (caused by dying macrophages). Diabetes causes these lesions to develop and progress at a faster pace. When the lumen is occluded, a heart attack or stroke may occur, depending on the location of the occluded artery.

We have demonstrated, using a mouse model of type 1 diabetes-accelerated atherosclerosis (Renard et al. 2004Johansson et al. 2008) that diabetes stimulates both initiation of lesions of atherosclerosis and progression to advanced lesions, and that this is in large part due to an increased inflammatory state of monocytes and macrophages (Kanter et al. 2012). This increased inflammatory state is not due to increased glucose in these cells (Nishizawa et al. 2014). Instead we have shown that by blocking an enzyme (acyl-CoA synthetase 1) involved in fatty acid utilization by these cells, it is possible to prevent development of early lesions in diabetic mice, without affecting lesions in non-diabetic mice (Kanter et al. 2012). This suggests that there are specific targets for treatment or prevention of diabetes-accelerated atherosclerosis. Our current research is focused on identifying additional targets.

Our work is, or has been, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and Novo Nordisk A/S.



UW Diabetes Institute Researcher Jenny Kanter, PhD, Receives ADA Innovative Basic Science Award

DOCE Associate Director Karin Bornfeldt, PhD, Receives NIH R01 Award

NHLBI Renews Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes Program Project (PI: Karin Bornfeldt, DOCE Associate Director)

DOCE Associate Director Karin Bornfeldt, PhD, Awarded 2014 Edwin Bierman Lectureship

DOCE Associate Director Karin Bornfeldt, PhD, Awarded 2013 Russell Ross Memorial Lectureship in Vascular Biology

DOCE Associate Director Karin Bornfeldt, PhD, Receives NIDDK Pilot and Feasibility Award

DOCE researchers published in Cell Reports

Jenny Kanter’s research highlighted in Nature

Jenny Kanter’s research highlighted in Circulation Research


Lab Life




  • People

    Current and Recent Members of the Bornfeldt Laboratory

     Karin Bornfeldt, PhD Karin Bornfeldt, PhD, Principal Investigator, Professor of Medicine and Pathology.
    My career has been devoted to the discovery of cellular and molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular complications associated with diabetes. After completing my PhD on the effects of insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 in vascular cells in Sweden, I was offered a position as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Russell Ross. During this time, I also interacted closely with Dr. Edwin Krebs, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1992, in studying signal transduction pathways in vascular cells. Work in my laboratory led to the development of a transgenic mouse model of type 1 diabetes-accelerated atherosclerosis, in which T cell-mediated destruction of the beta-cell can be induced at will by viral infection. By using this model, my group has shown that diabetes accelerates initiation of atherosclerotic lesions by stimulating macrophage accumulation within the vascular wall (Renard et al. J Clin Invest. 2004) and lesion intraplaque hemorrhage (Johansson et al. PNAS. 2008). More recently, my laboratory has been interested in the role of fatty acid-derived acyl-CoAs in atherosclerosis and inflammation (Kanter et al. PNAS. 2012), the effects of glucose in myeloid cells (Nishizawa et al. Cell Rep. 2014) and endothelial cells, and the role of S100A9 in insulin resistance and atherosclerosis in mice (Averill et al. Circulation 2011). I collaborate with many groups in the US and Europe. I have had 20 pre- and postdoc trainees in my laboratory so far, and I am heavily involved in their training and future careers. I also frequently participate in minority student teaching. My administrative duties include serving as Associate Director of the Diabetes and Obesity Center of Excellence and as Deputy Director of the Diabetes Research Center (DRC) at the University of Washington for which I also direct a core facility (the Viral Vector and Transgenic Mouse Core), serving as PI on a Program Project Grant and as Co-Director on a T32 training grant in Nutrition, Obesity and Atherosclerosis, chairing a large number of review panels, including as a member of the NHLBI Program Project Grant Parent Committee (HLBP), organizing scientific meetings and organizing a weekly research training conference. For specific examples of the types of projects we work on, please see the descriptions of student research below.  Click here for publication list.

     Shelley Barnhardt Shelley Barnhart, BS, Research Scientist 2.
    Research interests:  Molecular biology, macrophage function, S100 proteins.
    Oscar Oscar Gonzalez, MD, Cardiology Fellow, University of Washington.
    Research interests: The role of acyl-CoA synthetase 1 in endothelial cells. Dr. Gonzalez has moved on to the clinical part of his fellowship. Recent publications: Li, Gonzalez et al. 2013
    Jenny Kanter, PhD Jenny Kanter, PhD, Research Assistant Professor.
    Research Interests:  Effects of diabetes and insulin resistance on monocytes and macrophages in mouse models of diabetes-accelerated atherosclerosis, and mechanisms of diabetes-accelerated atherosclerosis. Recent publications: Kanter et al. 2012, Kanter et al. 2012, Kanter & Bornfeldt 2013
    Eyal Kedar, MD Eyal Kedar, MD
    Research interest: Effects of lupus on monocyte and macrophage activation and atherosclerosis
    Farah Kramer, BS Farah Kramer, BS, Research Scientist 2, Lab Manager.
    Research Interests:  Developing and maintaining transgenic mouse models of diabetes-accelerated atherosclerosis, immunohistological evaluation of atherosclerotic lesions.
    Tomohiro Nishizawa, PhD Tomohiro Nishizawa, PhD, Visiting Scientist from Daiichi-Sankyo Co., Japan 2009-2011.
    Research Interests: Effects of glucose in myeloid cells and atherosclerosis. Recent publications: Nishizawa & Bornfeldt 2012; Nishizawa et al. 2014
    Xia (Clare) Shen, PhD Xia (Clare) Shen, PhD, Research Scientist 2.
    Research Interests:  Effects induced in human endothelial cells by increased acyl-CoA synthesis.Recent publications: Li et al. 2013
    Ricky Rualo, BS  Ricky Rualo, BS, Assistant Research Scientist.
    Research Interests:  Mouse colony management, genotyping and various projects in the lab.
    Sara Sara Vallerie, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow.
    Research Interests: Downstream effects of acyl-CoA synthetase 1 deficiency in macrophages as they relate to atherosclerosis.
    Sara Vallerie, PhD Valerie Wall, BS, Graduate Student (Pathology Graduate Program)
    Research interests: Acyl-CoA thioesterases in macrophage biology and atherosclerosis, glucose effects in smooth muscle cells.