The overriding theme of research in our lab is the interaction between mitochondria and cell stress and its effect on the pathology of chronic disease and aging. Most people learn about mitochondria as kidney bean shaped structures that function as the “Powerhouse of the Cell” by generating chemical energy in the form of ATP. However, mitochondria are actually structurally and functionally dynamic organelles that sit at the nexus between cell energetics, redox biology, and cell signaling. As a result, mitochondrial biology controls many aspects of cell function and plays a critical role in cell, tissue, and organismal responses to acute and chronic stressors. Despite this recognition, the mechanisms by which mitochondria contribute to chronic disease remain poorly defined. The two main questions that drive most of our research are:
What are the structural changes that underlie the changes in mitochondrial metabolism and redox stress associated with aging and chronic disease?
How does chronic stress associated with mitochondrial dysfunction affect adaptive responses to acute stress?
Answering these questions will improve our understanding the role of mitochondria in disease to help develop targeted interventions to improve quality of life with age and chronic disease.
To address these questions we have developed a network of collaborations that allows us to combine whole animal performance measures, unique in vivo imaging and spectroscopy tools, and state of the art proteomics, molecular, and biochemical assays. The overall goal of this integrative approach is to facilitate our ability to move between translational and mechanistic studies to increase the impact of our work on both basic science and ultimately human health.