Please note: The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio will now be called "UT Health San Antonio."

Search Program Faculty/Research

Donna M. Lehman, Ph.D.

Lehmand photo


A major focus of my lab is to identify genes that are involved in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes and related metabolic traits and to understand their function. We have used whole genome high-throughput methodology and have identified multiple loci harboring genetic variants affecting risk for diabetes. We are now applying induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell technology to explore their biological function in human cells derived from patients and subjects of a local diabetes cohort.

One application currently underway in my lab is the study of the role of the T2D-associated gene TCF7L2 in hypothalamic control of glucose metabolism. We have developed and mastered protocols to reproducibly differentiate human iPSC into CNS forebrain glutamatergic neurons with a genomic profile similar to mouse neurons isolated from the hypothalamus.  Since human CNS neurons and many other tissues that regulate glucose homeostasis are inaccessible in vivo, the use of iPSC technology is a powerful tool to circumvent this roadblock and generate ample supply of human cells for study.

My research program also includes studies examining the mechanisms of effects and interactions of diabetic and lipid lowering medications as well as finasteride on risk and progression of prostate cancer among diabetic men. We were the first to report a synergistic, beneficial effect of combination therapy with metformin and statins on prostate cancer incidence.

Selected Publications

Yao L, Ayala I, Liu Y, Chen Y, Curran J, Kumar S, Lehman D. Human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived models to investigate neuronal signaling involved in control of metabolism. Presented at Neuronal Control of Appetite, Metabolism, and Weight, Keystone Symposia. Alberta, Canada, 2013.

Blackburn A, Göring HH, Dean A, Carless MA, Dyer T, Kumar S, Fowler S, Curran JE, Almasy L, Mahaney M, Comuzzie A, Duggirala R, Blangero J, Lehman DM. Utilizing extended pedigree information for discovery and confirmation of copy number variable regions among Mexican Americans. Eur J Hum Genet. 2013 Apr;21(4):404-9.

Lehman DM, Lorenzo C, Hernandez J, Wang CP. Statin use as a moderator of metformin effect on risk for prostate cancer among type 2 diabetic patients. Diabetes Care. 2012 May;35(5):1002-7.

Lehman DM, Hunt KJ, Leach RJ, Hamlington J, Arya R, Abboud HE, Duggirala R, Blangero J, Göring HH, Stern MP. Haplotypes of transcription factor 7-like 2 (TCF7L2) gene and its upstream region are associated with type 2 diabetes and age of onset in Mexican Americans. Diabetes. 2007 Feb;56(2):389-93.

Williams AL, et al., The SIGMA Type 2 Diabetes Consortium et al. Sequence variants in SLC16A11 are a common risk factor for type 2 diabetes in Mexico. Nature. 2014 Feb 6;506(7486):97-101.

Associate Professor
Medicine/Clinical Epidemiology


Ph.D., Cellular & Structural Biology, UTHSCSA, 1999

MS, Computational Biology, University of Tennessee, 1994

BS, Biology, Texas A&M University, 1985



Phone: 210-567-6714

Research Profile
More Info...

Graduate Students

Iriscilla Ayala
IMGP/Genetics, Genomics, and Development

Yuanhang Liu
IMGP/Genetics, Genomics, and Development