Current EXNS Faculty Advisors

 

Dr. Cory Dungan

The overall goal of my lab is to develop novel treatment therapies to slow muscle atrophy and augment muscle hypertrophy in sarcopenic and cachectic individuals. To do this, I utilized animal models to investigate the mechanisms regulating skeletal muscle mass and adaptation during aging and chemotherapy-induced cachexia, in addition to examining exercise-mediated cross-talk between skeletal muscle and the brain, specifically focusing on cellular senescence, myonuclear DNA-damage, and extracellular vesicles. Much of my work utilizes Cre-Lox and Tet-On/Tet-Off technology to modulated gene expression in a conditional, tissue-specific manner, in addition to using primary cell culture. I employ numerous biochemical techniques such as immunohistochemistry, RT-qPCR, western blotting, and single cell and nuclear sequencing, along with 3D printing for various research applications.

 

 

Dr. Jeff Forsse

My research focuses on the effects of exercise and nutritional interventions on attenuating and improving cardiovascular and chronic kidney function. I am interested in the impact of nutrition, aerobic, and resistance exercises on inflammatory cytokines and various metabolic pathways that influence the vascular and renal endothelium. It is well established that vascular inflammation and oxidative stress significantly contribute to endothelial dysfunction owing to attenuated endothelial nitric oxide production and reduced nitric oxide bioavailability. Endothelial dysfunction has been linked to chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and numerous other diseases. Therefore, I implement various exercises (e.g., high-intensity interval exercise, aerobic, and resistance training), nutrition (e.g., supplementation and whole foods), and weight loss (e.g., intermittent fasting and calorie restriction) interventions to provide additive effects on improving health and reducing chronic disease risk in diseased and healthy populations.

 

Dr. LesLee Funderburk

My research interests include effective weight management strategies, with supplementation, to improve body composition to enhance weight and disease management efforts and use of nutritional supplements to enhance effects of physical training programs with respect to improved body composition and functional capacity. My research team has focused on the use of supplemental l-leucine (BCAA) in mid-life women and is currently involved in interventions evaluating the effects of supplemental omega 3 fatty acid regarding enhancement of training regimens and impact on body composition. The overarching goal is to continue to identify the unique contributions of diet quality, supplementation and exercise in improving body composition with or without weight loss.

 

Dr. Andrew Gallucci

My research interests are focused on adverse health behaviors in collegiate student populations. To date I have examined risk factors and motivations associated the prescription medication misuse, energy drink consumption, and hazardous drinking. My primary area of research examines the risk factors and motivations associated with stimulant use (e.g. prescription stimulants, energy drinks) in undergraduate student samples. Currently my research is focused on examining neuroethical and spiritual issues related to stimulant misuse.
 

Dr. Paul Gordon 

My research addresses the impact of exercise on cardio-metabolic health outcomes across the lifespan. Most recently, I have been investigating the role of skeletal muscle adaptations and the impact of muscular fitness as an independent predictor of health status as it is linked to both premature mortality and several morbidities across the lifespan. We have recently reported that a simple clinical assessment of muscular strength is a powerful predictor of cardiometabolic risk in children and have identified low thresholds for strength that could be helpful for clinicians. Maintaining strength over time, as we have recently investigated, is critical to guard against the future development of cardiometabolic risk. We have also shown that the muscle’s response to strengthening activities initiates a series of immune system responses that promotes metabolic function indicating the alternative benefits of strengthening activities among those with metabolic dysfunction. I am also an ongoing member of the Genetics and Exercise Research Consortium, I continue to investigate the role that genes play on the adaptive responses to exercise and how these may contribute to a personalized prescriptive approach to optimal health outcomes.
 

Dr. Leigh Greathouse

The focus of my laboratory is on elucidating the relationship between diet, the microbiome and colon cancer etiology. Our goal is to 1) delineate the dietary factors that modify the microbiome and its function, 2) develop microbial multi-omic classifiers that improve stratification of patients for colon cancer treatment, and 3) identify key functional pathways and mechanisms of the microbiota-host communication, including nucleic acid sensing cell receptors that control inflammation. Ultimately, our goal is to discover microbial and metabolic targets for the development of clinical tools to improve treatment and reduce mortality from colon cancer.

 

Dr. Yunsuk Koh

My research primarily focuses on examining the effects of exercise, nutrition, and obesity on inflammation, atherosclerosis, and endothelial function. Some of the biomarkers in which I am interested are cell adhesion molecules (i.e. intracellular CAM-1, vascular CAM-1, and E-Selectin), matrix metalloproteinases, tissue inhibitors of MMPs, oxidative enzymes (i.e. ox-LDL, MPO, and 12/15 LOX), etc. These molecules are strongly associated with inflammation, atherosclerosis, and endothelial function; thus, my research mainly focuses on examining the response of these molecules following exercise and dietary/lifestyle modification in overweight and obese people that are more susceptible to cardiometabolic diseases.

 

Dr. Michelle Law

The overarching goal of my research laboratory is to identify mechanisms and potential therapeutic strategies for cancer cachexia. Cachexia, a muscle and adipose wasting syndrome, significantly decreases both quality and length of life in patients suffering from advanced cancers. Current projects are focused on identifying mechanisms of cardiac muscle dysfunction in cachexia and understanding how decreased cardiac performance may contribute to cachexia pathogenesis. We are particularly interested in the role of altered calcium handling and metabolic dysfunction in the heart during cachexia. We utilize an animal model of cachexia and employ techniques in physiology, molecular biology, and biochemistry to measure heart function and identify changes in protein and gene expression that contribute to functional changes.

 

Dr. Joon Park

My research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of how biomechanical stress maintains or disrupts cell homeostasis in the blood vessel and their functional implications on vascular disease and sports-related traumatic brain injury. The current research projects aim to identifying molecular therapeutic targets for muscle angiogenesis and blood -brain barrier disruption. In collaboration with experts in various fields, we multidisciplinary innovative approaches, including biochemical assays, cell culture/transgenic animal models, human intervention studies, microfluidics, -omics technology, and machine learning. My research program is continuously sponsored by various federal and organizational funding agencies, including NIH and AHA. (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7705-7086) I have a keen interest in STEM education for next generation scientist in undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels. My trainees have been awarded various national awards and funding, including NIH MARC U-STAR, Goldwater Scholarship, AHA Predoctoral & Postdoctoral fellowships. I also actively participated in multiple national services as a grant reviewer, a research award referee, and a member of scientific research taskforce teams. Prior to join Baylor, he served as a faculty at Temple University in the Department of Kinesiology and the Cardiovascular Research Center, Lewis Katz School of Medicine.


Dr. Cory Smith

My research focuses on aerospace and environmental physiology, physiological-based multimodal sensor data fusion, and neurophysiological research. I primarily utilize non-invasive neurophysiological measurement techniques such as skeletal near-infrared spectroscopy, functional near-infrared spectroscopy, electromyography, mechanomyography, and electromechanical delay. My current projects include the development of neurophysiological assessment methodologies for patients with neuromuscular diseases including children with autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson’s disease. In addition, my team is developing warfighter monitoring systems that quantify and track the underlying stressors impacting cognition, physiological responses, and task-performance in austere environments. The Human & Environmental Physiology Laboratory specializes in human subject research with a custom environmental room that can control heat, cold, humidity, light, and simulated altitude. Our modular environmental room has a full motion flight simulation system, cutting edge virtual reality with eye tracking, and Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3d Professional Plus software. In addition, our environmental room contains a training facility for law enforcement and military personnel that simulates stress, scenarios, and missions. The laboratory also contains a dedicated clinical treatment area that specializes in intermittent hypoxic treatment for inducing neuroplasticity in patients with neurological deficits such as spinal cord injuries and diseases.

 

Dr. April Stull

My research interests are dietary interventions and chronic disease prevention. My research is focused on polyphenol-rich foods and other functional foods, and their impact on the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome (i.e., pre-diabetes, obesity, and hypertension) in populations that are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Previous research findings in my lab have shown that consuming polyphenol-rich foods, such as blueberries, improved insulin sensitivity, endothelial function, oxidative stress, and inflammation in older adults with metabolic syndrome. The overall goal is to identify healthy foods that may help prevent or delay the progression of metabolic syndrome risk factors from developing into type 2 diabetes and/or cardiovascular disease.

 

Dr. Michael Wiggs

My research focus is on skeletal and cardiac muscle biology, biochemistry, and metabolism. My lab investigates the molecular signaling pathways in the regulation of muscle size in pre-clinical models such as disuse, cancer cachexia, and obesity. Prior findings from my research have demonstrated that mitochondrial dysfunction can negatively impact muscle protein synthesis and protein degradation and therefore may be an important target in preventing muscle atrophy. Using a combination of molecular biology and genetic approaches, my lab continues to explore the relationship between mitochondrial function and muscle mass with a long term goal of generating targeted therapeutics to prevent muscle wasting in a variety of models.
 

Adjunct Faculty

 

Dr. Shane Koppenhaver