Susan Bonner-Weir, Ph.D.

Susan Bonner-Weir, Ph.D.

Joslin Diabetes Center
Harvard Medical School
Susan Bonner-Weir, Joslin Diabetes Center

Susan Bonner-Weir investigates how the pancreatic beta cell changes with age and in response to challenges.

With a series of rodent models, Dr. Bonner-Weir has provided compelling evidence that adult pancreatic beta-cell mass increases in response to a metabolic need. Her lab has been examining the mechanisms of postnatal pancreatic growth, focusing on how the pancreatic beta cell changes with age and response to challenges.

After partial pancreatectomy, massive regeneration occurs with both enhanced replication of preexisting beta cells and ductal expansion and subsequent differentiation into endocrine, acinar or duct cells. The Bonner-Weir lab has shown that in the adult pancreas, duct cells can act as pancreatic progenitors after regressing to a less differentiated cell similar to the embryonic pancreatic duct cell.

Using the Cre-lox system for lineage tracing, Dr. Bonner-Weir and her colleagues have shown that mature duct cells serve as the progenitor for new islets and new acini after birth and after injury. They are further defining the cells and the factors involved. They have been successful in vitro cultivation of human islets from pancreatic ductal cells, and are characterizing the cells that give rise to the new islets.

The lab is also working to define the process of functional maturation of the beta cells by studying the physiological process that occurs postnatally.


Dr. Susan Bonner-Weir is Senior Investigator, Joslin Diabetes Center and Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Rice University and received her Ph.D. in biology from Case Western Reserve University. For over 25 years she has focused on the endocrine pancreas (the islets of Langerhans) in three areas:

  1. the architecture of the islet and its implications for function
  2. the in vivo regulation of beta-cell mass
  3. the factors involved in islet growth and differentiation.

She is currently exploring ways to develop a reliable source of new beta-cells.

Bonner-Weir has published over 180 peer reviewed papers and numerous book chapters and reviews. She has served on research grant review panels for the NIH, American Diabetes Association, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Danish National Research Council, the European Research Council, and the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine and on the editorial boards of Endocrinology, American Journal of Physiology, Diabetes, Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics, Cell Transplantation, and Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Research Interest(s)