Dr. Ron Piran

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Fields of Interest

Regenerative Medicine and Diabetes

Academic field
Regenerative Medicine
Research field
Regenerative Medicine
Research Center
Bar-Ilan University Azrieli Faculty of Medicine, Safed

Our lab is developing methods for pancreatic beta-cell regeneration as an approach to treat diabetes.

Pancreatic beta-cells are the insulin secreting cells in our body. Insulin is the survival hormone for tissues and cells in our body. Insulin is responsible for granting glucose (sugar) entry into cells. Glucose is the fuel that keeps cells alive. If the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or if the tissue cannot sense it, glucose is barred entry and cells starve to death. Blood-sugar levels also build up, because the cells aren’t able to consume the glucose.

This describes the imbalance found in diabetic patients. On the one hand body tissues are starving, which in acute cases develops into gangrene and necrosis. On the other hand, blood-sugar levels rise, creating osmotic pressure that causes problems such as atherosclerosis (disease of the arteries), kidney failure, strokes, and heart attacks, to name a few.

Both type I (juvenile) and type II (adult onset) diabetes are characterized by a deficiency of insulin-producing beta-cells. Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The body attacks and kills beta-cells, which results in less insulin. Type II diabetes is brought on by a collection of different metabolic illnesses. Generally speaking, the body is suffering from one of two problems. If the patient has poor eating habits and consumes too many carbohydrates, this leads to glucose overload, which overworks and eventually kills beta-cells.  Alternatively, other patients demonstrate resistance or insensitivity to insulin causing the beta-cells to secrete more insulin, also resulting in beta-cell exhaustion and death.

Current Research Objectives

Our goal is to replenish the beta-cell population in diabetic patients. Our strategy is to use drugs to convert neighboring alpha-cells into beta-cells in order to step up insulin production. We were successful using this approach in mice. Our efforts are directed towards increasing the conversion rate from alpha- to beta-cells in different diabetic models, with our growing knowledge of how the PAR2 receptor mediates this process. We are also attempting to stabilize the newly formed beta-cells by preventing their continued transdifferentiation into delta-cells.

Regenerative medicine is not limited to beta-cells, and our findings are therefore relevant to other fields where regeneration therapy is needed. So far, our discoveries have been shown to have implications for the treatment of hepatitis and limb amputations.



  1. Piran, R. , Lee, S.H., Kuss, P., Hao, E., Newlin, R, Millán J.L. and Levine, F. “PAR2 regulates regeneration, transdifferentiation and death” Cell Death and Disease 2016; 7, e2452.
  2. Piran, R. , Lee, S.H., Li, C.R., Charbono, A., Bradley, L, and Levine, F. “Pharmacological Induction of Pancreatic Islet Cell Transdifferentiation: Relevance to Type I Diabetes” Cell Death and Disease 2014; 5, e1357
  3. Lee, S.H. *, Piran, R. *, Keinan, E., Pinkerton, A., and Levine, F. “Induction of b-Cell Replication by a Synthetic HNF4a Antagonist” Stem Cells 2013; 31(11): 2396–2407. * EQUALLY CONTRIBUTED
  4. Lee, S. H., Athavankar, S., Cohen, T., Piran, R., Kiselyuk, A., and Levine, F. “Identification of Alverine and Benfluorex as HNF4α Activators” ACS Chemical Biology 2013; 8 (8): 1730–1736
  5. Ratner, T., Piran, R., Jonoska, N., and Keinan, E. “Biologically Relevant Molecular Transducer with Increased Computing Power and Iterative Abilities”. Chemistry and Biology 2013; 20 (5): 726-733.
  6. Shoshani, S., Piran, R., Arava, Y., and Keinan E. “A Molecular Cryptosystem for Images by DNA Computing”. Angewandte Chemie Intl. ed. 2012; 5: 2883-2887.
  7. Shoshani, S., Ratner, T., Piran, R., and Keinan E. “Biologically Relevant Molecular Finite Automata” IJC 2011; 51: 67 – 86.
  8. Chung, C-H., Hao, E., Piran, R., Keinan, E., and Levine, F. “Pancreatic β-Cell Neogenesis by Direct Conversion from Mature α-Cells”. Stem Cells 2010; 28:1630-1638.
  9. Chung, C-H., Hao, E., Piran, R., and Levine, F. “Adult alpha Cells Can Function as beta Cell Progenitors in a Novel Pancreatic Injury Model” Diabetes 2010; 59: A450-A450
  10. Piran, R., Halperin, E., Guttmann-Raviv, N., Keinan, E. and Ram Reshef . “Algorithm of Myogenic Differentiation in Higher-order Organisms”. Development 2009; 136: 3831-3840
  11. Cavaliere, M., Jonoska, N., Yogev, S., Piran, R., Keinan, E., and Seeman, N. C. “Biomolecular Implementation of Computing Devices with Unbounded Memory”. DNA Computing (Lecture Notes in Computer Science). 2005; 3384: 35-49.
  12. 2.  Maytal-Kivity, V., Pick, E., Piran, R., and Glickman, M.H.The COP9 signalosome-like complex in S. cerevisiae and links with other PCI complexes”. Int. J. of Biochem. Cell Biol., 2003; 35: 706-715.
  13. 1. Maytal-Kivity, V.*, Piran, R.*, Pick, E., Hofmann, K., and Glickman, M.H.A COP9-signalosome complex components play a role in regulating the mating pheromone response in S. cerevisiae”. EMBO rep., 2002; 3(12): 1215-1221.                      *EQUALLY CONTRIBUTED



Book Chapters:

  1. Ratner, T., Shoshani, S., Piran, R., and Ehud Keinan. “Biomolecular Information Processing: From Logic Systems to Smart Sensors and Actuators”, Katz, Evgeny (Ed.), VCH-Wiley, 2012; 145-179 (ISBN-10: 3-527-33195-6)
  2. Piran, R. and Keinan, E. “In-vitro Evolution of Catalytic Antibodies and Other Proteins via Combinatorial Libraries”. Catalytic antibodies, Ehud Keinan (Ed), VCH-Wiley, 2005; 243-283.
  3. Saphier, S., Piran, R. and Keinan, E. “Photoenzymes and photoabzymes”. Catalytic antibodies, Ehud Keinan (Ed), VCH-Wiley, 2005; 350-369.