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Federal grant boosts Medical College research

Milwaukee, Wis.- The Medical College of Wisconsin has announced that Stephen Duncan, an associate professor of cell biology, has received a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The five-year, $1.8 million grant will provide additional funding for Duncan and his team in their work to identify protein factors that regulate liver function. Duncan said that research into these factors may contribute to future development of pharmaceuticals that improve liver detoxification and regulate glucose and cholesterol levels.

Duncan's team has been researching liver cells for the past six years, and has identified liver cells known as hepatocytes, which control the functions and development of the liver. The team found that when hepatocyes are removed from mouse embryos, the liver seems unable to function, and they now hope to see how the cells regulate liver formation.

"It's sort of a master switch, a transcription factor that switches on and off gene expression," Duncan said. "You can imagine [that] by regulating functions of this master liver gene, you can change the liver to deal with various disease states."

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