Research: Biomedical Sciences


Consequences of Metabolic Syndrome on Cardiac and Adipose Tissues

Cardio-Renal-Metabolic Syndrome refers to a clustering of conditions that includes atherosclerosis, heart failure, chronic kidney disease and type 2 diabetes. These pathologies are associated with hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure and low high-density lipoprotein levels. The Askari Lab, in collaboration with internal and external investigators, uses dietary, genetic and surgical modifications in small and large animal models to mimic the above-mentioned disease states to investigate the consequences on cardiac and adipose tissue functions.

Principal Investigator: Associate Professor, Bardia Askari, Ph.D.


Vascular Complications and Adipose Tissue Dysfunction in Diabetes & Obesity

Type 2 diabetes mellitus, one of the most prevalent metabolic diseases affecting Americans, is a chronic metabolic disorder characterized by insulin resistance and high levels of blood glucose, ultimately resulting in debilitating disorders of the vascular system. Vascular complications, including coronary artery disease and stroke, are the leading cause of death among diabetic patients. The Sepulveda Lab focuses on exploring and elucidating the mechanisms by which metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes alter key molecular mediators that are essential for maintaining vascular integrity and function.

Principal Investigator: Associate Professor, Maria Alicia Carrillo Sepulveda, BSN, Ph.D.


Low Thyroid Hormone Function and Heart Failure

Primary and secondary hypothyroidism affects millions in the United States alone, causing thyroid hormone levels in circulation to drop below normal and is interlinked with cardiovascular disease, including heart failure. The Gerdes Lab studies the role of cardiac tissue hypothyroidism in the development and progression of heart disease in animal models of hypothyroidism and heart failure. The goal is to test the efficacy of thyroid hormone supplementation in animal models of heart disease to set the stage for clinical trials in humans.

Primary investigator: University Professor & Department Chairman , A. Martin Gerdes, Ph.D.


Dynamic Decision-Making with the Upper Limb

Behavior occurs in a constantly changing environment where a pursued option can become untenable and others become available. The Kurtzer lab seeks to understand how the nervous system supports target re-selection reaching movements, including the relative contributions of visual, mechanical, and goal-related information.

Primary investigator: Assistant Professor, Isaac Kurtzer, Ph.D.


Exploring Health Disparities through Independent Health Policy/Public Health Research and Advocacy

Health policy research explores the attainment of health goals and the impact of policy and implementation processes on outcomes. It combines various disciplines such as economics, sociology, anthropology, political science, public health, and epidemiology to understand how health systems and policies interact and influence each other, within the socio-economic network of health. Dr. Leheste's research program welcomes students at all levels to explore health disparities and independently create their own health policy and public health research projects. The program aims to cultivate scholars who actively advocate for their chosen cause and population through engaging presentations, impactful publications, and meaningful service.

Primary investigator: Associate Professor, Joerg R. Leheste, MSc, Ph.D.


Mitochondrial Quality Control and Heart Failure

Pathological disorders become evident when mitochondrial dysfunction reaches a cell-specific threshold. The Liang lab studies the role of mitochondrial “quality control” processes in heart failure under various conditions including diabetes, cancer chemotherapy and caloric restriction, exploring the possibilities for various mechanism-based therapeutics for the treatment of heart failure.

Primary investigator: Professor, Qiangrong Liang, Ph.D.


Microbiology of Tick-Borne Diseases

Lyme disease, one of the most common tick-borne diseases, has been rapidly spreading in parallel with the expansion of the range of its tick vector. There are no vaccines currently available for preventing Lyme disease. The current research focus of the Pavia Lab aims to better define the antigens that would comprise an effective vaccine. A portion of this project is being done in collaboration with the Zhang (Dong) Lab.

Primary investigator: Professor, Charles Pavia, Ph.D.


Brain Development and Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Neurodevelopmental disorders, especially those that result in cognitive delay/disability and epilepsy, may have common etiologies involving neuronal migration and lamination in the neocortex. The Ramos Lab studies the molecular and cellular mechanisms for normal brain development and the establishment of neuronal connections in order to understand neurodevelopmental disorders such as epilepsy.

Principal Investigator: Associate Professor, Raddy Ramos, Ph.D.


Vascular Calcification and Atherosclerosis

Calcification is the pathological deposition of minerals in the form of calcium phosphate salts into the vascular tissues. This process, along with dyslipidemia, inflammation and thickening of the intimal layer, are the primary causes of the development of atherosclerotic plaques. While this can occur with normal aging, it is accelerated in certain pathological states, such as diabetes mellitus and various genetic disorders and is associated with significant increases in morbidity and mortality. The Savinova Lab utilizes various mouse models of atherosclerosis to elucidate and understand the interactions between vascular calcification and associated end-organ dysfunction.

Principal Investigator: Associate Professor, Olga V. Savinova, Ph.D.


The Role of DNA Damage Response and DNA Repair in Tumorigenesis and Cancer Therapy

Breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease and is one of the most common cancers in women worldwide. The Zhang Lab focuses on the role of Breast Cancer Gene 1 (BRCA1) in DNA damage response and DNA repair. We also investigate novel synthetic lethal strategies to target breast cancers and ovarian cancers bearing the BRCA1 mutations.

Primary investigator: Associate Professor, Dong Zhang, Ph.D.