Rennian Wang

Genetics & Development Dr. Rennian Wang


Scientist, Division of  Genetics & Development, Children’s Health Research Institute
Professor, Departments of Physiology & Pharmacology and Medicine, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University
Scientist, Diabetes & Metabolism Program, Lawson Health Research Institute 

How my research helps children

Insulin-dependent diabetes is one of the major health problems in childhood. Transplantation of insulin-producing cells is a promising approach to restore normal glycemia; however, a lack of sufficient donor organs and side effects of drugs limit its potential. My research focuses on understanding the nature of insulin progenitor identity, genetic profiles and the factors that control insulin-producing cell differentiation, proliferation and maintenance of function. Understanding this will enable us to create better methods for the treatment of diabetes.


Current Research Activities

Dr. Wang’s research is dedicated to understanding and manipulating cellular differentiation in pancreatic tissue in order to provide a pathway for beta-cell regeneration in diabetic individuals. Currently, there are three major ongoing research subjects: (1) understanding the molecular events involved in the morphogenetic control of beta-cell development in human; (2) study of the role of c-Kit and stem cell factor in the differentiation and maturation of islet cells and (3) determination of the mechanisms of integrin-extracellular matrices in islet cell survival and function.  She has published 28 papers in the last five years in journals such as Diabetes, Diabetologia, Endocrinology, Journal of Pathology and British Journal of Surgery.  Recently, she has co¬authored papers on Nature, Nature Medicine and Gastroenterology.

Research Team

Dr. Wang’s lab consists of five graduate students, two undergraduate students and a research technician.  She has trained ten graduate students, three post-doctoral fellows, a visiting clinical scientist and a visiting Professor, who spent his sabbatical leave in her laboratory to work on creating bioartificial endocrine pancreas.  Dr. Wang’s lab has been collaborating with numerous research groups at Western, in Canada and internationally.

Future Research Plans

Her long-term goal is to create effective strategies for islet cell replacement or regeneration in human diabetics.

Awards & Grants

Awards & Grants

Funding in support of Analysis of c-Kit and insulin receptor signaling interactions in regulating pancreatic beta-cell function and islet vasculature – Awarded by Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR)

Funding in support of Aldehyde dehydrogenase 1 (ALDH1) activity in the developing human fetal pancreas – Awarded by Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA)

Funding in support of Role of Fibrin-integrin Interactions in Supporting 2D and 3D Pancreatic Islet Growth and Function – Awarded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)

New Investigator Award – Awarded by Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR)

Funding in support of Role of MENIN in the Developing Human Pancreas & Diabetes – Awarded by CIHR

Funding in support of Determination of the Mechanisms by which the c-Kit Tyrosine Kinase Receptor Regulates Pancreatic Beta Cell Development, Function and Survival – Awarded by CIHR

Funding in support of Role of SOX genes in the developing human fetal pancreas – Awarded by Canadian Diabetes Association

Funding in support of Determination of the Mechanisms by which beta1-Integrin Regulates Pancreatic Islet Cell Survival – Awarded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)

Funding in support of A novel gene necessary for the development of the endocrine pancreas – Awarded by Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Internationa

Recent Publications


Jejunal nutrient sensing is required for duodenal-jejunal bypass surgery to rapidly lower glucose levels in uncontrolled diabetes
Breen DM, Rasmussen BA, Kokorovic A, Wang R, Cheung GW, Lam TKT
Nature Medicine.  In press 2012

Inhibition of GSK3β activity improves beta-cell function in c-KitWv/+ male mice
Feng ZC, Donnelly L, Li J, Krishnamurthy M, Riopel M, Wang R
Lab Invest 2012 Jan 16. doi:10.1038/labinvest.2011.200. [Epub ahead of print]

Functional role of SOX9 in beta cell differentiation during human fetal pancreas development McDonald E, Li J, Krishnamurthy M, Fellows GF, Goodyer CG, Wang R
Int J Biochem Cell Biol, 44:72-83, 2012

Conditional β1 integrin-deficient mice display impaired pancreatic β-cell function
Riopel M, Krishnamurthy M, Li J, Liu S, Leask A, Wang R
J Pathol, 224:45-55; 2011.

Integrins α3, but not β1 regulates islet cells survival and function via PI3K/Akt signaling
Krishnamurthy M*, Li J, Fellows GF, Rosenberg L, Goodyer CG, Wang R
Endocrinology, 152:424-435; 2011

Exploring the anti-diabetic effect of duodenojejunal bypass in normal and high-fat diet induced diabetic mice
Woods M, Lan Z, Li J, Wheeler MB, Wang H, Wang R
Br J of Surgery, 98:686-696; 2011

Glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) is expressed in pancreatic islet α-cells
Fujita Y, Asadi A, Yang GK, Baker R, Wideman RD, Zhang I, Wang R, Kwok YN, Kieffer TJ
Gastroenterology, 138(5):1966-75, 2010

Effect of forkhead box O1 (FOXO1) on beta cell development in the human fetal pancreas
Al-Masri M, Krishnamurthy M, Li J, Fellows GF, Dong HH, Goodyer CG, Wang R
Diabetologia, 53(4):699-711, 2010

Rfx6 directs islet formation and insulin production in mice and humans
Smith SB, Qu HQ, Taleb N, Kishimoto N, Scheel DW, Lu Y, Patch A, Grabs R, Wang J, Lynn FC, Miyatsuka T, Mitchell J, Seerke R, Désir J, Eijnden SV, Abramowicz M, Kacet N, Weill J, Renard M, Gentile M, Hansen I, Dewar K, Hattersley AT, Wang R, Wilson ME, Johnson JD, Polychronakos C, German MS
Nature, 11;463(7282):775-80, 2010

Additional publications



Phone: (519) 685-8500, x55098
Fax: (519) 685-8186
Email: rwang [at] uwo [dot] ca 

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