Marcinek Lab

Research Themes

Aging Skeletal Muscle

Aging is the leading risk factor for most chronic diseases and skeletal muscle dysfunction is a primary driver of increased frailty, morbidity, and poor quality of life across these conditions. Therefore, mitochondrial dysfunction in aging skeletal muscle is an important public health concern due to its role in exercise intolerance and skeletal muscle dysfunction (sarcopenia). Our previous work has demonstrated that mitochondrial dysfunction in aging muscle is associated with both a dynamic, rapidly reversible component and structural changes in mitochondrial physiology (Marcinek, 2017; Marcinek and Siegel, 2013, ). We are actively working to understand these mechanisms and identify mitochondrial targeted interventions to improve muscle function

Pathology of Chronic Domoic Acid Exposure

Domoic acid (DA) is naturally occurring excitoxic neurotoxin produced by the diatoms Pseudo nitzschia during harmful algal blooms. Human exposure to acute DA toxicity is minimized by rigorous monitoring of coastal shellfish fisheries. However, we identified neurobehavioral effects caused by chronic exposure to domoic acid in laboratory models at levels well below this regulatory threshold for acute toxicity. Our subsequent work and that of our epidemiologist colleagues have demonstrated that a significant fraction of coastal population may be exposed to domoic acid at these levels through the recreational and tribal razor clam fisheries in Washington State. Our data from chronic exposures in laboratory models and work from collaborators working with Washington tribal populations led the Washington State Department of Health to develop a public advisory around potential chronic exposure to low-level domoic acid. Our current research projects seek to identify the mechanisms of this chronic toxicity and potential differences in susceptibility in at risk populations.