Dr. Liu identifies and characterizes natural compounds for the prevention and treatment of diabetes and vascular disease.
Dr. Liu is primarily focused on discovering anti-diabetic and vascular protective agents from various natural sources. Specifically, his laboratory is investigating the potential benefits of some small molecules isolated from foods and medicinal plants on diabetes, hypertension, and diabetic vascular inflammation, and further studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms that mediate these effects. Among 4,000 compounds collected in his lab, they have studied about 100 compounds using both in vivo and in vitro systems. His team has identified several compounds that provide beneficial effects on diabetes by improving pancreatic beta-cell function or insulin resistance, two defects central to the development of diabetes. Further, Dr. Liu is interested in developing biodegradable nanoparticles as delivery vehicles of the identified anti-diabetic compounds to enhance their bioavailability, cellular uptake, and therapeutic efficacy.
In the second area, Dr. Liu is investigating the use of plant-derived flavonoids for prevention and treatment of diabetes-caused vascular complication. Atherosclerosis, a chronic inflammatory vascular disease, is a major complication of diabetes and accounts for the largest number of all deaths among diabetic patients. He seeks to understand whether epigenetic modifications play a key role in accelerated vascular inflammation in diabetes. Meanwhile, his laboratory is searching for epigenetic modifiers from natural compounds, which could provide a novel strategy for the prevention of diabetes-caused vascular inflammation.