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Yusuf Ali

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

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

Yusuf Ali is an Assistant Professor in Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University. 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 and the development of insulin-producing cells. Currently, his lab is leveraging on novel imaging techniques to study biological mechanisms that influence function and survival of insulin-producing cells in various animal models of type-2 diabetes.

Research Focus


The enigma of pancreatic islet dysfunction, and in particular insulin-producing cell failure, in early type-2 diabetes drives our research endeavors. 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). Failure to properly adapt results in diabetes and our latest research seems to suggest that Asian insulin-producing cells may not adapt to stress as well as our Caucasian counterparts.

Using tools of molecular, cellular, chemical and whole body biology, we have observed pancreatic islet composition change even before the appearance of diabetic symptoms. Thus our research activities are centered on identifying the drivers of this change so that we can improve the natural way our body produces and secretes insulin. Specific projects include deciphering the role of islet macrophages in type-2 diabetes, understanding mechanisms of cellular stress in Asian insulin-producing cells, determining whether lipid droplets protect insulin-producing cells from toxicity in obesity and diabetes, evaluating different methods for effectively delivering drugs to insulin-producing cells and, modulating complex sugar breakdown and absorption as a treatment for type-2 diabetes.

Current Funding Support
  • MOE Tier 2 (2018-2021)
  • Lee Foundation Grant (2016-2018)
  • MOE Tier 2 (2016-2019) 

Selected Publications
Diez JA, Arrojo E, ... Ali, Y., et al. (2017) Pancreatic Islet Blood Flow Dynamics in Primates. Cell Reports. 20(6):1490-501.

Dorajoo R, Ali Y, Tay VSY, et al. (2017). Single-cell transcriptomics of East-Asian pancreatic islets cells.​ Scientific Reports. 7(1):5024.

Arrojo EDR, Ali Y, Diez J, et al. (2015). New insights into the architecture of the islet of Langerhans: a focused cross-species assessment. Diabetologia. 58(1):2218-28.

Åvall K, Ali Y, Leibiger IB, et al. (2015). Apolipoprotein CIII links islet insulin resistance to β-cell failure in diabetes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112(20):E2611-19.

Wu B, Wei S, ... Ali Y, et al. (2015). Synaptotagmin-7Phosphorylation Mediates GLP-1 Dependent Potentiation of Insulin Secretion from β-Cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112(32):9996-10001.
Juntti-Berggren L, Ali Y, & Berggren PO. (2015). The pancreatic β-cell in deadly encounter with apolipoprotein CIII. Cell Cycle. 14(17):2715-16.

Wang Y, Ali Y, Lim CY, et al. (2014). Insulin-stimulated leptin secretion requires calcium and PI3K-Akt activation. Biochemical Journal. 458(3):491-8.

Kang NY, Lee SC, ... Ali Y, et al. (2013). Visualization and isolation of Langerhans islets by a fluorescent probe PiY. Angewandte Chemie International Edition in English. 52(33):8557-60. 

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