Yu Hsuan Carol Yang
Lecturer in Cell Biology (E&R)
University of Exeter Medical School, RILD Building, RD&E Hospital Wonford, Barrack Road, Exeter, EX2 5DW, UK
Dr. Yang received a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry and Chemistry from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada. She completed a PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology at UBC in the lab of Prof. Jim Johnson, studying pancreatic beta cell death in diabetic settings and characterizing factors that can promote beta cell survival. Her studies led to the discovery of unexpected roles for axon guidance cues in the survival and function of pancreatic beta cells.
Subsequently, Dr. Yang joined the Max Planck Institute in Bad Nauheim, Germany, as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Prof. Didier Stainier. With fellowship support from the Human Frontier Science Program, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the European Molecular Biology Organization, she investigated the in vivo interplay between autonomic innervation and pancreatic endocrine cells, which has potential implications in diabetes progression. She took advantage of the zebrafish model to conduct in vivo imaging, targeted-cell ablation, optogenetic-mediated neuromodulation and genetic analyses to uncover insights into pancreatic nerve-endocrine interactions during development and physiological adaptations.
In 2020, Dr. Yang moved to the University of Exeter to continue her research on the interplay between the nervous system and the endocrine pancreas during development and maintenance of energy homeostasis. Her research interests are in molecular and cell biology of diabetes initiation and progression and she continues use zebrafish as a complementary model for interrogating the effects of neural perturbances on pancreas physiology.
PhD Cell and Developmental Biology – University of British Columbia, Canada
BSc (Hons) Biochemistry and Chemistry – University of British Columbia, Canada
The balanced interplay between pancreatic islets, liver, fat, muscle, kidney, gut and the brain is crucial for energy homeostasis. Activity coordination in these key tissues by the central and peripheral nervous system remains understudied, despite their fundamental importance. Islet cells respond to physiological stimuli including glucose, fatty acids, hormones and neurotransmitters. Failure to tightly regulate hormone release from islet cells leads to diabetes and its many co-morbidities.
The endocrine pancreas is innervated by autonomic and sensory nerves, but the role of innervation in pancreas development, hormone secretion and diabetes progression remains under-explored because of limited tools/methods for assessing cause from effect and providing precise molecular mechanisms. New approaches, including emerging optogenetic and chemogenetic tools, are required for understanding peripheral neurobiology with precision on physiological time scales. The zebrafish, with organs and signalling/metabolic pathways that are evolutionarily conserved and similar to mammals, is ideal for studying innervation during organ development and environmental adaptation. By combining its advantages of rapid embryogenesis and optical transparency with genetic tools, pancreatic-neuro-endocrine crosstalk can be studied dynamically.
- Elucidate the pathways that modulate neural-endocrine interactions
- Determine how specific neural perturbances alter pancreatic islet cell development, function and regeneration and contribute to diabetes etiology
- Explore changes in the neural network during islet cell dysfunction
- Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation Pump Priming Grant (2021-2023)
- JDRF UK Small Grant Award (2021-2022)
- Society for Endocrinology Equipment Grant (2021-2022)
- Human Frontier Science Program Postdoctoral Fellowship (2015-2020)
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship (2017-2019)
- National Institute of Genetics Collaborative Research Grant (2016)
- European Molecular Biology Organization Long-Term Fellowship (2014-2015)
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship (2014-2015)
External Engagement and Impact
Invited lectures & workshops
- Yang YHC. 2022. Neural regulation of pancreatic islet physiology. Invited speaker: European Zebrafish PI Meeting. Dresden, Germany.
- Yang YHC, Briant L, Raab C, Mullapudi ST, Maischein HM, Kawakami K, Stainier DYR. 2021. Communication between pancreatic endocrine cells is modulated by neural signalling. Diabetes UK Professional Conference. Virtual meeting.
- Yang YHC, Briant L, Raab C, Mullapudi ST, Maischein HM, Kawakami K, Stainier DYR. 2020. Innervation modulates the functional connectivity between pancreatic endocrine cells. Keystone Symposia on Islet Biology: From Gene to Cell to Micro-Organ. Santa Fe, NM, USA.
- Yang YHC, Briant L, Raab C, Mullapudi ST, Maischein HM, Kawakami K, Stainier DYR. 2019. Innervation modulates the functional connectivity between pancreatic endocrine cells. Cold Spring Harbor Meeting: Zebrafish Neural Circuits and Behavior. Cold Spring Harbor, NY, USA.
- Yang YHC. 2019. In vivo assessment of endocrine pancreas function following perturbed autonomic innervation. Invited speaker: University of Birmingham. Birmingham, United Kingdom.
- Yang YHC. 2019. In vivo assessment of endocrine pancreas function following perturbed autonomic innervation. Invited speaker: Islet Society Meeting. Maribor, Slovenia.
- Yang YHC. 2019. Probing the role of innervation in endocrine pancreas development and function. Invited speaker: Centre de recherche du CHUM. Montreal, QC, Canada.
- Yang YHC and Stainier DY. 2018. Unraveling the role of endocrine pancreas innervation through in vivo time-lapse imaging and optogenetic control of nerve activity. Keystone Symposia on Endoderm Development. Taos, NM, USA.
- Yang YHC. 2016. The role of autonomic innervation in endocrine pancreas development and function: Insights from the zebrafish. Invited speaker: The Leading Edge in Cytometry Meeting. Bad Nauheim, Germany.
- Yang YHC. 2015. A live-cell imaging survey of 206 biologic factors across 5 stress conditions reveals context-dependent survival effects in primary beta cells. Invited speaker. Invited speaker: 3rd HumEn GA Meeting. Bad Nauheim, Germany.
Supervision / Group
- Rebekah Boreham (Research Assistant)
- Jasmine Aldam (2021-2022, FYP Student)
- Elizabeth Bright (2021-2022, FYP Student)
- Anna Dickerson (2021-2022, PTY Student)