Pamela Itkin-Ansari, Ph.D.

Pamela Itkin-Ansari's Research Focus

Related Diseases > Cancer, Diabetes - General, Gastric Cancer, Monogenic Diabetes, Pancreatic Cancer, Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes
Dr. Itkin-Ansari’s research is directed toward understanding diseases of the human pancreas. She has studied the signaling pathways controlling growth and differentiation in the pancreas in order to elucidate mechanisms leading to pancreatic pathogenesis. The lab is developing a cell based therapy for diabetes that will not require immunosuppression. New research in the lab has identified a signaling pathway controlling pancreatic cancer cell growth that is yielding new potential targets for drug discovery for pancreatic cancer.

Pamela Itkin-Ansari's Research Report

Genetic engineering in human pancreatic cells
Genetic engineering in human pancreatic cells

In Type I, juvenile diabetes, the insulin producing beta-cells in pancreatic islets are destroyed by the immune system and patients require exogenous insulin. In Type II diabetes beta-cells are also lost or dysfunctional and therefore, 25 percent of patients with Type II diabetes also take insulin. Unfortunately, current insulin therapy is not sufficient to prevent serious medical consequences of this disease. Islet transplantation into the liver has been evaluated as a diabetes therapy in adults. However, it is considered too risky for children because transplant patients must take potent drugs to suppress the immune system for the rest of their lives.

Human pancreas development
Human pancreas development

The goal of our lab is to develop a human islet transplantation therapy for children that does not require immunosuppression and is minimally invasive. Previously we determined that a durable encapsulation device protected mouse islets from immune rejection in a mouse model of Type I diabetes. The encapsulated cells were controlled diabetes in the animals. In a preclinical trial we demonstrated that the device is also immunoprotective in primates. Recently we have collaborated with a local biotech company ViaCyte in a CIRM funded study to encapsulate human embryonic stem cell derived pancreas cells. Together we demonstrated that the cells differentiate into fully functional islets inside the device and cure diabetes in mice. Remarkably, the cells functioned well even when the device was transplanted just under the skin, making the procedure minimally invasive.

Islet clusters in the developing pancreas
Islet clusters in the developing pancreas


We also study the signaling pathways involved in:

  • beta-cell differentiation
  • beta-cell function
  • beta-cell replication and regeneration


Pancreatic Cancer
Id3 (green) in human pancreatic cancer
Id3 (green) in human pancreatic cancer


We are interested in identifying the master regulators of growth control in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA). We found that the transcriptional repressor Id3 is profoundly upregulated in human PDA. To investigate whether Id3 might play an early role in aberrant pancreatic duct cell growth, we expressed the gene in primary human duct cells that are not normally growing. Indeed, Id3 expression was sufficient to trigger cell cycle entry. Further, the lab demonstrated that Id3 is required for pancreatic cancer cell growth. We are now studying Id3 interacting genes in order to identify optimal targets for drug discovery efforts for PDA.

Pamela Itkin-Ansari's Bio

Pamela Itkin-Ansari earned her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of California San Diego, in 1999. She received postdoctoral training focused on juvenile diabetes at that same organization. In 2003, Dr. Itkin-Ansari was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and maintains UCSD as her primary affiliation. Dr. Itkin-Ansari was appointed to Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in 2005 and her laboratory is at SBP.

Other Appointments

Sanford School of Medicine, South Dakota

Funding Awards and Collaborative Grants

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)
California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM)
The Hartwell Foundation
The Hirshberg Foundation

Honors and Recognition

  • 2012 Invited Speaker, (International) Islet Society, Stockholm, Sweden 
  • 2012-current: Editorial Board -Islets 
  • 2012-current: Diabetes, Islets, PlosOne, Molecular Therapy- manuscript review 
  • 2012-current: Wellcome Trust-grant review 
  • 2012 Invited Speaker, Hirshberg Symposium – Pancreatic Cancer 
  • 2011 Invited Speaker, American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy, Seattle, Washington 
  • 2011 Editorial Board – World Journal of Diabetes
  • 2011 Invited Speaker, UCLA 
  • 2011-current: Diabetelogia – manuscript review 
  • 2011-current: Editorial Board – World Journal of Diabetes 
  • 2010 Invited Speaker, 3rd International Conference on Advanced Technologies & Treatments for Diabetes, Switzerland
  • 2010 Editorial Board -Stem Cell Reviews and Reports [SCRR]
  • 2010 Invited Speaker, American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy, Washington, D.C:
  • 2010-current: Hartwell Foundation Biomedical Research Awardee 
  • 2010 Invited Speaker, Pancreatic Cancer Research Group, UCLA, 
  • 2010-current: Faculty Advisor, SDSU CIRM Bridges Program 
  • 2009 Invited Speaker, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
  • 2009 Invited Speaker, UK Consulate Stem Cell Meeting
  • 2009 Finalist-NIH President’s New Innovator Award
  • 2009-current: Advances in Experimental Biology and Medicine – manuscript review 
  • 2008 Health Hero Award, JDRF and Combined Health Agencies of San Diego 
  • 2008-current: Pancreas – manuscript reviewer 
  • 2008-current: JDRF – grant reviewer 
  • 2007-current: Stem Cells – manuscript reviewer 

Other Affiliations

  • 2012-current: Islet Society 
  • 2010-current: ASGCT 
  • 2008-current: Board of Directors, JDRF San Diego chapter 
  • 2008-2013: JDRF board of directors, San Diego 
  • 2007-current: American Association for Cancer Research
  • 2007-current: American Diabetes Association 
  • 2007-current: American Pediatric Society/Society for Pediatric Research 
  • 2006-current: AAAS
DAR Accessory


Kiselyuk A, Lee SH, Farber-Katz S, Zhang M, Athavankar S, Cohen T, Pinkerton AB, Ye M, Bushway P, Richardson AD, Hostetler HA, Rodriguez-Lee M, Huang L, Spangler B, Smith L, Higginbotham J, Cashman J, Freeze H, Itkin-Ansari P, Dawson MI, Schroeder F, Cang Y, Mercola M, Levine F
Chem Biol 2012 Jul 27;19(7):806-18
Kiselyuk A, Farber-Katz S, Cohen T, Lee SH, Geron I, Azimi B, Heynen-Genel S, Singer O, Price J, Mercola M, Itkin-Ansari P, Levine F
J Biomol Screen 2010 Jul;15(6):663-70
Itkin-Ansari P, Levine F
Cell Biochem Biophys 2004;40(3 Suppl):103-12
Yong J, Itkin-Ansari P, Kaufman RJ
Dev Cell 2016 Jan 11;36(1):4-6
Hassler JR, Scheuner DL, Wang S, Han J, Kodali VK, Li P, Nguyen J, George JS, Davis C, Wu SP, Bai Y, Sartor M, Cavalcoli J, Malhi H, Baudouin G, Zhang Y, Yates JR III, Itkin-Ansari P, Volkmann N, Kaufman RJ
PLoS Biol 2015 Oct;13(10):e1002277
Kim S, Lahmy R, Riha C, Yang C, Jakubison BL, van Niekerk J, Staub C, Wu Y, Gates K, Dong DS, Konieczny SF, Itkin-Ansari P
Pancreas 2015 Jul;44(5):718-27