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Jose Oberholzer, MD
Dr. Jose Oberholzer, MD, is an Associate Professor of Surgery, Endocrinology and Diabetes, and Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), the Director of the Islet and Pancreas Transplant Program and the Chief of the Division of Transplantation. He has extensive experience in clinical and experimental islet transplantation, abdominal organ transplantation, as well as advanced hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgery.  He trained at the University of Geneva (Switzerland), as well as at the University of Alberta in Edmonton (Canada), where he completed a fellowship in hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgery and transplantation. Dr. Oberholzer was the Head of the Islet Transplant Program at the University of Geneva and the GRAGIL islet consortium from 1998 to 2002, completing a significant number of islet transplants. He has been heading UIC's Islet Transplant Program since 2003 and is the Chief of the Transplant Division at UIC since Summer 2007.  UIC has a comprehensive multi-organ transplant program with emphasis on transplantation for diabetes, as well as on robotic surgery in living donors for kidney, liver, pancreas and small bowel.
Dr. Oberholzer is also an expert in advance minimally invasive and robotic surgery of abdominal organs.
To date the UIC islet transplant program has performed over 250 human islet isolations for both transplant and research. UIC is a federally funded islet cell resource center and provides islet preparation for researchers around the world. Dr. Oberholzer at UIC has successfully completed a phase 1/2 trial with 10 patients investigating the effect of anti-inflammatory treatment in combination with exenatide on islet transplantation outcomes.
UIC has a comprehensive islet transplant research program with emphasis on improving  clinical outcomes, expanding the available human islets and avoiding long-term immunosuppression.

We offer Master and PhD programs in collaboration with the Department of Bioengineering, and for surgical residents Master Degrees in Surgery.
UIC started the nation's first phase 3 licensure trial in islet transplantation and is part of NIH's clinical islet transplantation consortium (
Dr. Oberholzer is also the coordinator of the Chicago Project for a functional cure of diabetes (, an unique international coalition of interdiscipliniary scientists working together. The Chicago Project was seed funded and is continously supported by the Washington Square Health Care Foundation  (
UIC's islet transplant program is funded by NIH, the JDRF, the Christopher Family Foundation, the Efryomson Fund, the Dr. Scholl Foundation, the Grant Health Care Foundation and other numerous supporters of the Chicago Project.




Yong Wang, MD - Assistant Professor

Joined UIC team in 2004 with extensive experience in the human islet isolation and islet physiology. Currently his research focuses on the human islet function using microfluidic chamber combined with fluorescence techniques such as calcium influx, mitochondrial potential measurement, and ROS production. The mechanism understanding of isolated human islet defects is likely to have profound impact on the graft function and viability of human islets in vivo. Also it will provide new strategies for pancreas preservation and isolation.


Barbara Barbaro, Ph.D - Research Assistant Professor (Operations Manager)

Earned a MS in Cell Biology and Ph.D in Cell Biology and Biotechnology form the University of Messina, Italy. She is involved the Human Islet Isolation and Transplantation program as well as in different research projects aimed to improve isolation procedure and post isolation culture. She is also devoted to organizing, leading and managing the research laboratory. During these years, she has been extensively occupied in research design, account managing, writing grants, papers and posters, tutoring and training students as well as islet isolation personnel.



Travis Romagnoli, MS - Assistant Director

Graduated from UIC with a Master's degree in Bioengineering under the guidance of Jose Oberholzer. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Cell Isolation and Cell Transplantation program at UIC, and is responsible for managing and coordinating program activities. He obtained his B.S. in Bioengineering from UIUC and is currently pursuing an MBA from the Liautaud Graduate School of Business at UIC.


Mike Hansen, CTBS - QC Manager

Certified tissue bank specialist who monitors all aspects of processing for compliance with regard to cGMP and GTP principles as well as other regulations.  He has been with the program since it began.


Payam Salehi, MD, PhD - Senior Research Specialist

Trained at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada and has extensive experience in organ preservation as well as the isolation and transplantation of human islets. Dr. Salehi joined UIC islet isolation and transplantation team in 2005. His research mainly focuses on improving human islet isolation techniques and investigating oxidative stress pathways during pancreas preservation and islet isolation.


Meirigeng Qi, MD, PhD - Senior Research Specialist

Trained as a surgeon in China and completed a PhD in encapsulated islet transplantation at the Kyoto University, Japan. He joined the UIC islet team in May 2005 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and is an expert in human islet isolations and assessments. He also experienced rodent islet transplantation and is a fully trained surgeon capable of performing all of the transplant surgeries. He is currently conducting a pre-clinical study of transplantation of microencapsulated human islets in non-human primate models.


Shusen Wang, M.D, Ph.D - Post Doc Research Specialist

Researching new ways to inhibit islet transplantation rejection. Also, he is working on human islet isolations for clinical human islet transplantation.,


Joan N. Martellotto, RN, PhD - Senior Clinical Coordinator

Eearned a nursing diploma from St. Joseph's Infirmary, Atlanta, GA and completed the following degrees: BS in Nursing, University of Maryland; MS, Rush University; and PhD, University of Illinois. She practiced in community and school health programs before collaborating with physicians as a nurse practitioner in hypertension, rheumatology, stroke- eurology, and skin integrity specialties. Dr. Martellotto joined the UIC Islet Transplant Research
Program to coordinate clinical research in January 2005. Her previous research and ongoing interest includes the experience of illness and its impact on the quality of life of patients and their families.


Elaine Shestokas, RN - Clinical Coordinator

Earned a Bachelor's degree in nursing from St. Xavier University, Chicago, IL.  Elaine has a varied background in direct care nursing and health care administration including mental health and emergency department.  Prior to joining Dr. Oberholzer's Islet Transplant Research team, one of her favorite positions was in the,Office of the Inspector General for the Illinois Department of Human Services (MH/DD Division) as the Clinical Coordinator.


Leelamma George, RN, MSN- Clinical Coordinator

Earned her BS in Nursing and her MSN from the College of Nursing, Madras University, India.  Her Master’s degree is in pediatric Nursing.  Lee has worked as a staff nurse in a variety of adult and pediatric clinical areas and as a lecturer.  Before joining the Islet Transplant Research team she served as the Administrative Nurse for the Clinical Research Center at the UIC Medical Center at Chicago.


Tricia Harvat, MS - Research Specialist

ecently joined the lab in September 2007 although she has been working at the University for more then 8 years.  Tricia is working under Yong Wang and will be assisting him in the assessment of human islet function and viability using the microfluidic chamber combined with fluorescence techniques such as calcium influx, mitochondrial potential measurement, and ROS production.  This technique will aid in determining function and viability of isolated human islets in preparation for transplantation.  Tricia has her Master of Science Degree from Miami University, Oxford, OH.


Beatrice Fournier, MD - Research Specialist

Trained in the University Hospital of Geneva in Switzerland.  After receiving her Doctorate Degree in Medicine with a specialty in General Surgery, Dr. Fournier worked in the Islet Transplant Research Unit in Geneva and contributed to several successful human auto- and allo-transplantations. In October 2007, Dr. Fournier joined Dr. Oberholzer's Islet Transplant Research team. Dr. Fournier is principally devoted to organ procurements and human islet isolation for transplantation and research. To contact Dr. Fournier, please email


Lisette Angelica Rodriguez, B.S. - Research Specialist

Came to the UIC Islet Lab in the summer of 2006 through the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) - which is a part of the UIC undergraduate college.  She enjoyed being a part of the Islet team and taking part in research so much that she decided to stay and collaborate with the other members of the team, assist in islet isolations, and also take on some projects of her own.  She believes that this experience will be very beneficial to building her scientific background before she enters medical school in the fall of 2008.


Christopher Groh, BS - Research Specialist

Originally worked as a research volunteer over the Summer of 2006, and then, joined the team full-time following his graduation from Duke University in the Spring of 2007.  His undergraduate educational background was in Biomedical Engineering.  His responsibilities in Dr. Oberholzer's lab extend to quality control of the equipment and facilities, in vitro testing, islet shipping, and islet isolation.  Chris enjoys the unique learning experience of working in the lab prior to his entrance into medical school during the Fall of 2008.


Enza Marchese, B.S. - Research Specialist

Came to the UIC Islet Lab as a volunteer in the fall of 2006 in order to learn various laboratory techniques such as enzymatic assays and histology. She was subsequently hired and now is involved in several projects and mainly devoted in advancing the Exendin-4 project.


Moolky Nagabhushan, Ph.D - Research Specialist

Involved in various aspects of Human Islet Isolation and Transplantation program. He is also devoted to Islet isolation clean room environmental monitoring, islet quality assessment and islet shippment to basic science research programs. He has extensive research experience in cancer research, toxicology and immunology.  He has published 32 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and has more than 100 abstracts and presentations in national and international scientific meetings.


Joseph Kuechle - Student

MD/PhD student who has been working with the Islet transplantation team for the last few years. He is interested in development and regeneration of the pancreas, specifically enhancing beta cell proliferation. Joseph is originally from Buffalo NY where he completed his Bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering at SUNY Buffalo.


Adeola Adewola, B.A. - Student

PhD student majoring in Bioengineering and she received her bachelors in computer science at the University of Minnesota, Morris. She started working in the UIC Cell Isolation Lab in May 2006. She is currently working on improving cell culture techniques and studying islet cell function.


Brian Rady - Student

PhD student who stared working with the Islet transplantation team in 2007. His interests include proliferation of pancreatic beta-cells and regeneration of hepatocytes. Brian is originally from Chicago where he completed his Bachelors degree in Biology at Loyola University Chicago.


Pablo Pallan - Student

is currently a 3rd year medical student here at UIC. He received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from Trinity University, San Antonio, TX. Pablo is responsible for the analysis and maintenance of data in the Collaborative Islet Transplantation Registry. 




Alicia Bedolla - Administrative Assistant to the Director


Jeff Kulik, coordinator of Administrative Services





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