Subhadra Gunawardana
Last active: 1/13/2015


The major focus of my research is to develop better therapeutic approaches for Type 1 Diabetes (T1D), without the limitations involved in islet/pancreas transplantation. The subcutaneous space provides a safer and less invasive alternative to traditional transplant sites, and subcutaneous transplantation of embryonic pancreatic tissue has proved successful in correcting T1D in certain immune-deficient mouse strains. Curiously, reversal of diabetes in this situation occurs without an accompanying improvement in insulin response, but an increase in adipose tissue hormones instead. Based on these intriguing observations, I explored novel approaches to correct T1D independent of insulin. Subcutaneous transplantation of embryonic brown adipose tissue (BAT) has proved remarkably successful in correcting T1D without insulin in immune-competent as well as immune-deficient mice. Euglycemia is accompanied by robust proliferation of white adipose tissue (WAT) and significant decrease of inflammation. While insulin remains consistently subnormal, there is a progressive increase in several hypoglycemic adipokines, and suppression of glucagon. Thus it appears that alternative hormones from the BAT transplant, newly-formed WAT, and possibly the endogenous BAT establish a new equilibrium that leads to glucose homeostasis. My current work seeks to document the underlying mechanisms of insulin-independent glycemic regulation following BAT transplants; to delineate the relationship between BAT function and inflammation; and to refine this approach for potential translation to clinical settings.


The following timeline graph is generated from all co-authored publications.

Featured publications are shown below:

  1. Benefits of healthy adipose tissue in the treatment of diabetes. Gunawardana SC (2014) World J Diabetes 5(4): 420-30
    › Primary publication · 25126390 (PubMed) · PMC4127579 (PubMed Central)
  2. Ablation of PRDM16 and beige adipose causes metabolic dysfunction and a subcutaneous to visceral fat switch. Cohen P, Levy JD, Zhang Y, Frontini A, Kolodin DP, Svensson KJ, Lo JC, Zeng X, Ye L, Khandekar MJ, Wu J, Gunawardana SC, Banks AS, Camporez JP, Jurczak MJ, Kajimura S, Piston DW, Mathis D, Cinti S, Shulman GI, Seale P, Spiegelman BM (2014) Cell 156(1-2): 304-16
    › Primary publication · 24439384 (PubMed) · PMC3922400 (PubMed Central)
  3. Therapeutic value of brown adipose tissue: Correcting metabolic disease through generating healthy fat. Gunawardana SC (2012) Adipocyte 1(4): 250-255
    › Primary publication · 23700541 (PubMed) · PMC3609108 (PubMed Central)