Cellular & Integrative Physiology

Erika Boesen, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Cellular and Integrative Physiology
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Research Interests:  Our research centers on better understanding how the kidneys work normally, allowing for control of salt and water balance in the body and therefore blood pressure; and on two different types of kidney injury. One project focuses on acute kidney failure caused by an acute episode of poor perfusion, as can occur during surgical procedures or following traumatic injury. The other project focuses on the slowly developing injury to the kidneys that occurs in the autoimmune disease Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus). Experiments in the lab range from molecular and biochemical measurements in cultured cells and isolated tissues, up to measurements of kidney function and blood pressure in conscious animals.

For more information on Dr. Boesen: Website

Vikas Kumar Ph.D.
Director, Mass Spectrometry & Proteomics Core
Dept. of Cellular and Integrative Physiology
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Research Summary: This is a cross-disciplinary project performed by Dr. Vikas Kumar in mass spectrometry and proteomics core and Dr. Lie Gao in the Department of Cellular and Integrative Physiology to elucidate the significance of Nrf2/Keap1 complex, a master transcriptional system to govern hundred cytoprotective genes, specifically in skeletal muscle under exercise training and aging conditions. We hypothesize that Nrf2/Keap1 plays a crucial role in the exercise-induced benefits of skeletal muscle and activation of this system ameliorates the sarcopenia with aging. To address this hypothesis, we created two novel transgenic mouse models, the iMS-Nrf2flox/flox and iMS-Keap1flox/flox, which allow us to conditionally delete Nrf2 or Keap1 genes selectively in skeletal muscle. By employing physiological methods, we are evaluating the influences of Nrf2 deletion or overexpression (i.e. Keap1 knockout) on exercise capacity, scurry wheel performance, whole body tension, and individual muscle contractility. The mass spectrometry is being used to provide the whole protein profile, redox proteomics, and protein S-glutathionylation of skeletal muscle, followed by in-depth bioinformatics analyses to create the integrative network maps of Nrf2/Keap1 signaling. Overall, we employ unique transgenic models, physiological tests, mass spectrometry-based proteomics, and bioinformatics analyses to address our hypotheses. We expect that the data obtained from these multidisciplinary approaches will develop a more sophisticated understanding of Nrf2/Keap1-activated signaling networks underlying exercise benefits on skeletal muscle and therefore highlight novel therapeutic targets for the development of enhanced therapeutic strategies for muscle wasting in aging and other pathological conditions, such as cancer, chronic heart failure, and chronic kidney disease.

Matthew C. Zimmerman, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
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Research Interests:  This laboratory studies two central nervous system-associated diseases, hypertension and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease).  We are interested in how reactive oxygen species (ROS) and antioxidants affect the development and progression of these diseases.  Although these two diseases may appear to be quite different, we believe there is a common underlying theme which includes increased levels of ROS produced in mitochondria. To examine mitochondrial-produced ROS in hypertension and ALS, we use molecular biology techniques to increase in the levels of mitochondrial-localized antioxidants in cell culture and animal models. Thus, in this laboratory, students are exposed to an array of research techniques from the molecular level to the whole animal.

For more information on Dr. Zimmerman: Website

Irving Zucker, Ph.D.
Professor and Chairman
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Research Interests:  How do signals from the brain control the activity of the heart and the blood vessels? In particular, how are these control mechanisms altered in patients with heart failure? Answering these questions may lead to improved drugs or other therapies to prevent or treat chronic heart failure. Current studies focus on body chemicals such as angiotensin II and nitric oxide and factors such as oxidant stress and exercise training in causing and/or preventing brain changes that contribute to heart failure. This laboratory uses a combination of molecular, cellular and whole animal techniques to study brain mechanisms in heart failure, exposing students to the wide variety of biomedical research techniques used in studies of both the brain and the cardiovascular system.

For more information on Dr. Zucker: Website