Dr. Gaglia is a physician scientist; many of his research projects are inspired by questions raised in the clinic, with type 1 diabetes being a major focus. He is developing clinically applicable techniques to monitor insulitis (the destructive process that leads to type 1 diabetes) and peripheral markers of diabetes related autoimmunity. In collaboration with other investigators, Dr. Gaglia is applying these techniques to learn more about the underlying processes that lead to type 1 diabetes as well as developing novel treatment strategies for this disease.
Monitoring inflammation in the pancreas via magnetic nanoparticle enhanced magnetic resonance imaging:
Type 1 diabetes results from autoimmune destruction of the pancreatic beta cells. Although there are many animal models of diabetes, due to the inaccessibility of the pancreas, it has been very difficult to study this process in humans. Teamed with Drs. Diane Mathis and Christophe Benoist at Harvard Medical School and Drs. Ralph Weissleder and Mukesh Harisinghani at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Gaglia has been using magnetic nanoparticle enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MNP-MRI) to visualize changes in the pancreas associated with the inflammatory infiltrate that can cause type 1 diabetes. This new technique has great promise in bettering our understanding of type 1 diabetes and facilitating development of immunomodulatory therapies for this disease.
Monitoring autoimmunity in diabetes:
Currently, islet-antigen-targeted autoantibody tests are used as a peripheral marker of the autoimmunity that leads to type 1 diabetes. However, these autoantibodies are immunologically distant from the destructive processes that cause diabetes. Using MNP-MRI as a noninvasive gold-standard, Dr. Gaglia's lab is developing new peripheral assays of autoimmunity in diabetes.
Clinical trials in type 1 diabetes:
As described above, Dr. Gaglia is leading a clinical trial to further develop MNP-MRI for noninvasively monitoring diabetes at the level of the pancreas. He is also working with additional investigators to bring this technique to other type 1 diabetes clinical trials.