Our Faculty

Atsushi Asakura, PhD
Associate Professor


Dr. Asakura has played an important role in the identification and development of stem cells that have the potential for treating muscular dystrophy. He is joining Minnesota faculty to play an important role in organizing and extending the University’s stem cell research efforts into the fields of muscular dystrophy and cardiac failure.

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Vincent Barnett, PhD
Assistant Professor


Dr. Barnett completed his PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Minnesota in 1987 and he has been a faculty member of the Department of Physiology since 1993. He is a recognized expert on how modification of the proteins essential for muscle activity impacts muscle function. His understanding of muscle elasticity, contraction and force generation is providing a novel approach towards ameliorating muscle deterioration.

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Greg Beilman, MD


Dr. Beilman, a general surgeon, who is interested in the effects of metabolic stress on muscle has studied muscle function and energetics in critically ill patients. This understanding of muscle energy production and metabolism provides necessary insight into the energy failure that is an aspect of all muscle.

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Christopher Boys, PhD, LP
Assistant Professor


Dr. Boys is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics. He is a Pediatric Neuropsychologist who completed his PhD in Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota. He also completed his clinical internship and post-doctoral fellowship in Pediatric Neuropsychology at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

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Lisa Chow, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine


Dr. Chow is an endocrinologist whose clinical interests include: diabetes (primary), thyroid, bone and adrenal. As an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism in the Medical School’s Department of Medicine, Chow’s research focuses on defining the influence of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance on cardiovascular risk factors in young adults.

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Razvan Cornea, PhD


Dr. Cornea's research is focused on understanding the molecular interactions and structural events that underlie the gating and regulation of the 2.3 million dalton ryanodine receptor (RyR) channel complex in normal and dysfunctional muscle. Ultimately, we hope to contribute to elucidating the basis of altered RyR function in muscle diseases.

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John Day, MD, PhD


Dr. Day is Professor of Neurology, of Pediatrics and, by courtesy, of Pathology at the Stanford University Medical Center. He practices at Stanford Hospital and Clinics and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

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William Durfee, PhD


Dr. Durfee works on identifying the mechanical and electrical properties of muscle in response to electrical stimulation, with applications to prosthetic devices and to disease characterization.

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James M. Ervasti, PhD


Dr. Ervasti primarily studies the structure and cellular function of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex, which spans the muscle cell plasma membrane (or sarcolemma) and links the cortical actin cytoskeleton with the extracellular matrix. Greater understanding of the physiologic role of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex is necessary to understand how its absence or abnormality leads to Duchenne muscular dystrophy and forms of human dilated cardiomyopathy.

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John Foker, MD, PhD
Robert L. and Sharon G. Kaster Professor


Dr. Foker is a pediatric surgeon whose clinical interests include congenital heart disease, growth and hypoplastic ventricles and esophageal atresia and tracheoeophageal fistula. His extensive experience with the treatment of infants with esophageal atresia and tracheoeophageal fistula has led to important information about the available options. He believes the advantages and disadvantages of the various treatments can be understood and will be useful in making decisions.

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Brad Fruen, PhD


Dr. Fruen's research explores the structure and regulation of life's largest ion channels, the ryanodine receptors. The release of calcium through ryanodine receptor channels triggers every heart beat and every skeletal muscle contraction. Defects in channel regulation are linked to life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias and skeletal muscle myopathies, and the development of improved therapies that target these channels is an important goal.

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Daniel J. Garry, MD, PhD
Professor of Medicine


Dr. Garry examines—on a molecular level—the development of heart cells. This includes heart stem cells and heart progenitor cells. If successful, his research may contribute to advances and cell therapies for patients with common and deadly congenital heart disease and advanced heart failure.

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Mary Garry, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine

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Dr. Garry focuses upon the neural mechanisms of cardiovascular control during exercise in health and disease. The goal of current research within the laboratory is to elucidate the neural reflex mechanisms responsible for these abnormal responses to exercise in disease as well as determining the biochemical and molecular mechanisms underlying reflex dysfunction.

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Gunda Georg, PhD
Professor and Head


Dr. Georg is professor and department head for the College of Pharmacy's Department of Medicinal Chemistry, where she holds the Robert Vince Endowed Chair and McKnight Presidential Chair. She is director of the Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development.

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Paul Iaizzo, PhD


Dr. Iaizzo, a Professor in the Department of Surgery with joint appointments in Anesthesiology and Physiology, specializes in applied physiology and outcomes research. He is on the graduate faculties in Biomedical Engineering, Neuroscience and Physiology and is also the Director for Education for the Lillehei Heart Institute.

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Peter Karachunski, MD
Assistant Professor


Dr. Karachunski received his M.D. from Russian State Medical University in Moscow. His residency sites include: Children's Hospital - Moscow (Pediatric Neurology); University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital (Pediatric Neurology) with his fellowships at: University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital (Clinical Research, Neuromuscular, Clinical Neurophysiology). He currently attends clinics at both the University of MN and Gillette Medical Centers.

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Christine Karim, PhD


Dr. Karim's research is focused on the regulation of calcium transport in the heart, which plays a major role in current hypotheses about the causes of heart failure and possible therapeutic approaches. My objectives are to gain insight into mechanisms of this regulatory function, and to develop a chemical engineering approach to control these processes.

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Susan Keirstead, PhD
Assistant Professor


Dr. Keirstead's research involves the use of calcium imaging and electrophysiological techniques to examine the functional characteristics of stem cells in vitro as they differentiate into cells of various tissue types. This system provides a useful model for the development of functional characteristics of neurons and other cells in culture.

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Michael Kyba, PhD
Professor and Lillehei Endowed Scholar Carrie Ramey / CCRF Endowed Professor in Pediatric Cancer Research


Dr. Kyba is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Hematology-Oncology and Blood and Marrow Transplantation. He is also a member of the Lillehei Heart Institute, and an affiliate member of the Stem Cell Institute.

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Shaojuan Lai, PhD

Dr. Lai is involved as a research scholar in muscle physiology, aging, muscular dystrophy, and exercise science. The focus of this research is cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying skeletal muscle deterioration that occur with age, injury, and disease.

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Bonnie LeRoy, MS


Bonnie LeRoy's major area of interest is the education and clinical preparation of Genetic Counseling professionals. She is the director of graduate studies in genetic counseling, which offers a master of science degree in molecular, cellular, developmental biology and genetics with an emphasis of study in genetic counseling.

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G.W. Gant Luxton, PhD


The Luxton lab is focused on understanding the establishment and function of nuclear-centrosomal axis orientation during cell migration as well as tissue development and regeneration. Specifically, we are interested in determining the mechanisms of nuclear and centrosomal positioning and understanding how a migrating cell interprets this positional information.

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Li Li Ji, PhD


Dr. Li has been fortunate to be able to conduct research in this exciting field of biological science during the past 25 years. Moving my laboratory to the University of Minnesota opens new opportunities and I am looking forward to working together with graduate and undergraduate students and collaborating with faculty and researchers across campus.

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Kelvin Lim, MD
Professor, Vice-Chair of Research


Dr. Lim is a psychiatrist and neuroimaging researcher who is interested in characterizing the central nervous system aspects of muscular dystrophy, using novel MRI methods available at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (cmrr.umn.edu).

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Dawn A. Lowe, PhD


Dr. Lowe is studying the effects of muscle training and deterioration in a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Her research interests include muscle physiology, aging, muscular dystrophy, and exercise science. The focus of this research is cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying skeletal muscle deterioration that occur with age, injury, and disease. Current studies are also aimed at preventing or reversing this muscle deterioration through exercise and pharmacological interventions.

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Molly McCue, DVM, MS, PhD


Dr. McCue's research group uses is to use the latest molecular genetics and genomics tools to study complex genetic disease, physiological variation and genetic diversity in equine populations. Our goals are to improve equine health through the understanding of complex genetic disease, allowing veterinarians to better predict, diagnose, and treat genetic disease, and to improve human health through the use of the horse as a biomedical model.

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Linda K. McLoon, PhD


Dr. McLoon is studying a unique process of myofiber remodeling in mammalian extraocular muscles, in part to understand why these muscles are completely spared in Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

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Joseph M. Metzger, PhD
Professor, Department Head and Chair


Dr. Metzger is Professor and Chair of Integrative Biology and Physiology at the University of Minnesota. Some of his research interests include: integrative systems biology of cardiovascular function, cardiac genetic engineering and experimental cardia gene therapy, transgenic models of heart disease, and molecular mechanisms of sarcomere function.

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James Mickelson, MS, PhD


Dr. Mickelson is a biochemist and geneticist who has investigated the molecular causes of metabolic failure and abnormal regulation of muscle contractility in a number of genetic disorders of domestic animal species including dogs and horses.

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Harry Orr, PhD
Professor and Tulloch Chair in Genetics


Dr. Orr’s research explores genes that play a role in neuron deterioration. This offers important implications for developing gene therapy and other types of treatments for patients with neurodegenerative diseases. Orr discovered the genetic basis for spinocerebellar ataxia type 1, an inherited and ultimately fatal movement disorder, and has set the stage for developing a drug to treat the condition. Orr directs the Institute of Translational Neuroscience, which was created to translate laboratory research discoveries into clinical trials of new therapies.

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Rita Perlingeiro, PhD
Professor of Medicine


The major goal of the Perlingeiro laboratory is to understand the molecular mechanisms that control lineage decisions from pluripotent stem cells, and apply this knowledge to efficiently generate skeletal muscle progenitors from pluripotent cells, which have been shown extensive in vivo regenerative potential in animal models of MD. Her research team aims now to apply this technology to iPS cells obtained from patients with MDs by establishing methods to genetically correct the disease mutation, and to evaluate the regenerative potential of resulting genetically corrected iPS cells. This information is essential to laying the groundwork for clinical development of pluripotent stem cells for MD.

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Benjamin Perrin, PhD

Assistant Professor Benjamin Perrin (BMBB), along with Dr. James Ervasti and collaborators at Harvard University, have discovered how stereocilia, which crown the tips of sensory hair cells in the inner ear, are renewed. The findings provide the foundation for new studies on progressive hearing loss and cellular aging.

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Osha Roopnarine, PhD


Dr. Roopnarine's research goals are to study the molecular mechanism of muscle contraction, with an emphasis on applications to human heart disease. She is using multidisciplinary approaches to solve fundamental problems in the mechanism of muscle contractility, focusing on familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (FHC).

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Peter Scal, MD, M.P.H.
Associate Professor


Dr. Scal's research projects include an analysis of the factors influencing the adequacy of services meant to foster the transition of adolescent with special health care needs from pediatrics to adult oriented care as well as an analysis of the racial/ethnic disparities in the parent-provider interactions among parents of adolescents with special needs.

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David Thomas, PhD


Dr. Thomas is a MERIT Scholar of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Disease, whose primary research focuses on muscle force generation at the single molecular level, using molecular biology and spectroscopic probes. He has recently applied this technology to explore the molecular basis of muscle degeneration.

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LaDora V. Thompson, PhD, BS PT


Dr. Thompson is a physiologist and physical therapist. Dr. Thompson’s research is focused on identifying the cellular mechanisms that are involved in age-related and inactivity-induced skeletal muscle weakness. The long-term goal of her research program is to identify therapeutic interventions to prevent muscle weakness.

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Margaret Titus


Dr. Titus is a biochemist and molecular biologist who investigates molecular aspects of contractile proteins necessary for muscle function.

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Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD
Dean of Medical School, Vice President for Clinical Affairs


Dr. Tolar has a clinical practice through the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital. His interests include educating and mentoring new physicians, and he has been the Director of the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology rotation at the University of Minnesota since 2005. Dr. Tolar is active in many professional societies, and is a strong advocate for cooperation and communication within the clinical and research communities.

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DeWayne Townsend, DVM, PhD
Associate Professor


My laboratory utilizes an integrative approach to study the pathophysiological mechanisms of heart failure, with a specific focus on dystrophic cardiomyopathies. Patients with many forms of muscular dystrophy also have significant cardiac disease. The Townsend Lab takes an integrative approach to problems relevant to cardiovascular disease. We examine cardiac biology from the level of the isolated protein to the intact animal. We have a particular interest in the pathogenic mechanism of dystrophic cardiomyopathies (the heart disease associated with muscular dystrophy).

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Gianluigi Veglia, PhD


Dr. Veglia is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics at the U of MN. The overall goal of his group is to study the structure and dynamics of membrane embedded enzymes. They use a multidisciplinary approach, which includes molecular biology, multidimensional solution and solid-state NMR spectroscopy, and molecular modeling.

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David Walk, MD


Dr. Walk is one of the principal neuromuscular neurologists at the University of Minnesota. He sees patients with adult-onset muscular dystrophies and myopathies as well as neuropathy and ALS.

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Michael Walters, PhD
Research Associate Professor


Dr. Walter's is the Director, Combinatorial Chemistry Laboratory for the Institute for Therapeutics Discovery & Development at the U of MN. His research interests include: cheminformatics, computational chemistry, hit-to-lead, and parallel medicinal chemistry.

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Yao Yao, MS, PhD


Dr. Yao's expertise lies in the fields of neurobiology, neuropharmacology, and stem cell biology. Specifically, Dr. Yao has been studying how the Blood Brain Barrier integrity is regulated at the cellular and molecular levels in both physiological and pathological conditions. In addition, Dr. Yao is also interested in muscle biology. Currently, Dr. Yao is investigating the roles of laminin (a major component of the basement membrane) and pericytes (perivascular multi-potent cells) in muscle development and regeneration after injury.

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Richard Ziegler, PhD, LP
Associate Professor


Dr. Ziegler is a pediatric neuropsychologist who has a specific interest in the developmental and degenerative aspects of central nervous system involvement in both Duchenne and myotonic dystrophies.

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