The University of Massachusetts Amherst


We are a highly collaborative cluster of researchers who study the biology of skeletal and cardiac muscle during development, aging, and pathogenesis. We have expertise in all aspects of muscle biology, including: molecular, cellular and structural biology, energetics and muscle physiology, from the interactions of myosin and actin to single biophysics to human MRI studies. Our primary interests center on atrophy and contractile alterations with exercise and aging, and we are well positioned to engage in a range of projects with the appropriate partners.

Translational Research Foci

Identification of Biomarkers for Muscle Atrophy: Muscle atrophy is a major contributor of patient mortality and morbidity in a wide range of clinical disorders, including: immobility, cancer cachexia, sepsis, HIV infection and sarcopenia. These protracted processes present fundamental challenges for identifying the underlying molecular mechanisms that are important for disease progression. By performing large-scale transcriptomics analyses of naturally occurring skeletal muscle atrophy in various invertebrate and vertebrate models we can help companies identify new diagnostic markers and/or targets for therapeutic intervention.

Identification of Sex-Specific Mechanisms of Age-Related Decreases in Muscle Function: Sarcopenia, defined as the loss of skeletal muscle mass and function with age, decreases the capacity for physical work, reduces ability to perform activities of daily living, contributes to physical disability, and increases the risk for falls and fractures. Our preliminary work suggests a molecular mechanism for the reduced contractile function in older adults is slower myosin-actin cross-bridge kinetics. By performing focus analysis of these proteins as well as known proteins that modify myosin-actin function in young and older adults should produce molecular level information on modification with age. These alterations would help companies determine potential targets for drug countermeasures to decrease age-related disability.

Identification of Sex-Specific Mechanisms of Exercise in Older Adults: Women experience greater functional limitations and disability with age compared to men. The type of exercise intervention that optimally improves skeletal muscle function and forestalls disability in older adults has yet to be defined, and is complicated by the fact that older men and women respond differently to the same exercise training stimulus. Understanding the molecular to whole body mechanisms behind this sex-specific exercise response will lead exercise interventions that maximally improve skeletal muscle function in each sex, as well as identifying targets for drug development to improve contractile function to treat functional disability.



Contact Info

Ned Debold, Kinesiology
(413) 545-4944