Joel Habener MD

Dr. Habener is Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Associate Physician and Chief of the Laboratory of Molecular Endocrinology at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. He obtained his B.S. degree in chemistry at the University of Redlands and his M.D. degree at the University of California, Los Angeles. After medical residency training at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, he spent two years in research at the National Cancer Institute. He completed his medical training in endocrinology and metabolism at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Habener is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He recently received the Endocrine Society's Robert H. Williams Distinguished Leadership Award.

The Type 2 Diabetes Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital focuses on studies relating to insulin resistance in type 2 diabetic patients.

By forming and testing hypotheses, Joel Habener's laboratory recently linked some cases of type 2 diabetes to mutations in the regulatory gene, IDX-1. Functional analysis of this gene demonstrated that it plays a role in beta cell development and insulin gene activation. A genomic approach will yield information on many more genes that are linked to diabetes, which will require subsequent functional analysis similar to that which Dr. Habener's laboratory has done for IDX-1. Many of these genes will undoubtedly play a role in the production of or the response to insulin.

Once we know how the combination of individual genes relates to disease, we will know who is at risk and we can advise those individuals on disease prevention. We will know who is likely to succumb to complications of diabetes and thus who needs to pay extra special attention to controlling blood sugar levels. We would like to use genetics to predict drug response, and target medications to those who will benefit most. By completing the full loop - from the patient, to the genotype, and then back to the patient - will we develop insights of direct benefit to the patient.