Assistant Prof Yusuf Ali


Assistant Professor Yusuf Ali
Assistant Professor of Metabolic Disease
Principal Investigator, Molecular & Cellular Dysfunction in Diabetes Laboratory

Laboratory Staff

  • Dr Manesh Chittezhath, PhD, Senior Research Fellow
  • Xiaofeng Zheng, Research Fellow
  • Vanessa Tay Shi Yun, Research Assistant
  • Chua Jueying, Research Assistant
  • Devaraj  Surabhi, Research Assistant
  • Cho Mar Myint Wai, PhD Student
  • Gunaseelan Divya, Graduate Student



Yusuf Ali is an Assistant Professor in Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University. He is also a member of the NTU Network for Research Integrity Point of Contacts. Asst Prof Ali earned a first class honours degree in biochemistry from the National University of Singapore and then went to Stanford University prior to receiving his A*STAR scholarship. He received his PhD in Integrative Sciences and Engineering from the National University of Singapore and completed his postdoctoral studies at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

Asst Prof Ali has published several landmark scientific papers describing the role of gaseous-mediators in aberrant pancreatic hormone release . Currently, his lab  is keen to uncover systemic/paracrine/autrocrine factors that alter both function and survival of pancreatic islet cells. He is also heavily involved in generating research tools to study signal transduction pathways in vivo. The overarching goal of his lab is to identify novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of diabetes.


Research Focus

Our research aims to solve the enigma of pancreatic islet dysfunction, in particular beta cell dysfunction in early Type-2 diabetes. The pancreatic islet is a prototypic mini-organ that is primarily tasked to control levels of blood glucose – an important source of fuel that drives our bodily functions. As a mini-organ, pancreatic islets are highly plastic and they quickly adapt to changes in energy requirements such as during prolonged starvation (anorexia) or chronic food excess (obesity).

Using tools of molecular, cellular, chemical and whole body biology, we have observed pancreatic islet composition change even before the appearance of diabetic symptoms. Our research activities are centred on both understanding this change and identifying the drivers of this change. We are pursuing projects that implicate islet inflammation as the ab initio of pancreatic islet dysfunction in Type-2 diabetes.

In addition, we have embarked on studies to understand carbon fuel choices of beta cells both in healthy and diabetic conditions. We also collaborate with material engineers to assess efficacy of novel encapsulation strategies that aid beta cell replacement therapies. We work alongside chemists to enzymatically alter carbon fuel sources so as to understand its impact on whole body glucose homeostasis.

Our international research team is highly motivated to decipher what goes wrong in pancreatic islets of diabetics and we are always on the lookout for similarly passionate individuals to join our cross-cutting endeavour.

Specific Projects
  • Delineating inflammatory mediators in diabetic pancreatic islets (islet dysfunction project) - Manesh, Vanessa, Cho Mar, Divya
  • Understanding beta cell lipid regulation and its subsequent impact on beta cell ER-stress. (carbon fuel choice for beta cell project) – Xiaofeng, (Minni)
  • Identifying unique transcript signatures in Asian alpha and beta cells (islet dysfunction project) – Xiaofeng, Vanessa, Jueying, Surabhi, (Juan & Minni)
  • Assessing efficacy of novel materials that aid beta cell replacement therapies (islet function/therapy project) – vacant
  • Evaluating the impact of reduced glucose enteric absorption on whole body glycemia. (carbon fuel choice for beta cell project) – Surabhi
Current Funding Support
  • MOE Tier 1 (2014-2017)
  • Lee Foundation Grant (2016-2018)
  • MOE Tier 2 (2016-2019)
  • Past Funding Support
  • Start-up grant (2013-2016)

 LKCMedicine Research Spotlight



  1. Ali, Y.*, Diez, J.*, Selander, L.*, Zheng, X., Edlund, H., Berggren, P-O. (*equal contribution) The anterior chamber of the eye is a transplantation site that supports and enables visualisation of beta cell development in mice. Diabetologia (2016) Feb 4. (IF.6.7) Journal Cover
  2. Arrojo, E.D.R.*, Ali, Y.* (*equal contribution), Diez, J., Srinivasan, D. K., Berggren, P. O., Boehm, B. O. New insights into the architecture of the islet of Langerhans: a focused cross-species assessment. Diabetologia, (2015) 58(10): 2218-28. (IF: 6.7)
  3. Åvall K*, Ali Y* (*equal contribution), Leibiger I, Leibiger B, Moede T, Paschen M, Dicker A, Daré E, Köhler M, Ilegems E, Abdulreda MH, Graham MJ, Crooke RM, Tay SY, Refai E, Nilsson SK, Jacob S, Selander L, Berggren P-O, Juntti-Berggren L Apolipoprotein CIII links islet insulin resistance to β-cell failure in diabetes. Proc Natl Acad Sci, USA (2015) 112 (20): E2611-E2619. (IF: 9.8)
  4. Wu B, Wei S, Petersen N, Ali Y, Wang X, Bacaj T, Rorsman P, Hong W, Südhof TC, Han W. Synaptotagmin-7 Phosphorylation Mediates GLP-1 Dependent Potentiation of Insulin Secretion from β-Cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci, USA (2015)doi:10.1073/pnas.1513004112 (IF: 9.8) Times cited: 2
  5. Juntti-Berggren L, Ali Y, Berggren PO. The pancreatic β-cell in deadly encounter with apolipoprotein CIII. Cell Cycle. (2015) 23:0. (IF: 4.6)
  6. Young T, Poobalan Y, Tan EK, Tao S, Ong S, Wehner P, Schwenty-Lara J, Lim CY, Sadasivam A, Lovatt M, Wang ST, Ali Y, Borchers A, Sampath K, Dunn NR. The PDZ domain protein Mcc is a novel effector of non-canonical Wnt signaling during convergence and extension in zebrafish. Development. (2014) 141(18):3505-16. (IF: 6.9)
  7. Wang Y., Ali Y., Lim, C.Y., Hong, W., Pang, Z.P., Han, W. Insulin-regulated leptin secretion requires calcium and PI3K-Akt activation. Biochem J.; (2014) 458(3): 491-8. (IF:4.7)
  8. Kang NY, Lee SC, Park SJ, Ha HH, Yun SW, Kostromina E, Gustavsson N, Ali Y, Chandran Y, Chun HS, Bae M, Ahn JH, Han W, Radda GK, Chang YT. Visualization and isolation of Langerhans islets by a fluorescent probe PiY. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. (2013) 52(33):8557-60. (IF: 13.4)
  9. Teo AKK*, Ali MY*, Wong KY, Chipperfield H, Sadasivam A, Poobalan Y, Tan EK, Wang ST, Abraham S, Tsuneyoshi N, Stanton LW, Dunn NR. Activin A and Bmp4 collaborate to promote definitive endoderm formation in human embryonic stem cells. Stem Cells (2012) 30(4): 631-642 (* co-first authors) (IF. 8.4)
  10. Köhler M, Dare E, Ali MY, Leibiger IB, Korsgren O, Juntti-Berggren L, Berggren P-O. One-step Purification of Functional Human Pancreatic alpha cells. Integr Biol (Camb). (2012) 4(2): 209-19. (IF.4.5)