Integrated Physiology and Molecular Medicine Laboratory


John Kirwan, PhD

John Kirwan, PhD

Bolormaa Vandanmagsar, PhD

Bolormaa Vandanmagsar, PhD

Jacob Mey, PhD, RD

Jacob T. Mey, PhD, RD

Laboratory Members

Chris Axelrod, MS

Christopher L. Axelrod, MS

Wagner Dantas, PhD

Wagner S. Dantas, PhD

Elizabeth Zunica, MS

Elizabeth R. M. Zunica, MS

Kathryn Pergola, MS

Kathryn Belmont, MS

Elizabeth Heintz, MS

Elizabeth Heintz, MS

Research Focus

Our laboratory is focused on improving the quality of life of patients with obesity-related diseases. We achieve this by translating clinical observations into basic scientific discoveries to be leveraged for development of more effective treatments.

About this Lab

The Integrated Physiology and Molecular Medicine Laboratory seeks to identify causes, consequences, and interventions for metabolic diseases. We employ basic, translational, and clinical research to discover novel therapies and optimize existing treatments for obesity-related diseases Overarching research interests include regulation of insulin sensitivity, glucose and lipid metabolism, mitochondrial function, obesity, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cardiovascular complications, aging and lifespan, cancer, exercise, metabolic surgery, and drug discovery.


Laboratory Member Bios

  • BA Kinesiology
    University of Limerick, 1980
  • MSc Exercise Biochemistry
    University of Massachusetts, 1984
  • PhD Human Bioenergetics
    Ball State University, 1987
  • Postdoctoral Fellow
    Washington University School of Medicine, 1991
  • Visiting Scholar
    University of California San Diego, 2004

Dr. Kirwan is the principal investigator of the IPMM laboratory and executive director of Pennington BIomedical Research Center. As a Clinical Translational scientist, Dr. Kirwan has maintained an independent and productive program pursuing research related to obesity, diabetes, and metabolism for over 25 years. Dr. Kirwan’s research interests include the underlying pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes and identification of lifestyle, surgical, and pharmacological interventions that facilitate weight loss and improve insulin sensitivity.

  • MS/Physician Biology
    Russian State Medical University, 1994
  • PhD Genetics
    Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, 2001
  • Visiting Scholar
    Yonsei University, 2004
  • Postdoctoral Fellow
    National Institute on Aging, 2008
  • Postdoctoral Fellow
    Pennington Biomedical Research Center, 2012

Dr. Vandanmagsar is an assistant professor of research in the IPMM laboratory. Her work is focused on the link between chronic inflammation and obesity, obesity-associated insulin resistance, particularly, the association between muscle inflammation and skeletal muscle insulin resistance, and the role of metabolic states in the development of inflammation in muscle. Dr. Vandanmagsar is also interested in how skeletal muscle signals to other metabolic organs such as liver and pancreas when metabolic stress is present.

  • BA Nutrition
    Case Reserve University, 2012
  • PhD Nutrition & Kinesiology
    University of Chicago, 2017

Dr. Mey is a registered dietician and assistant professor of research in the IPMM laboratory. Dr. Mey recently completed an NIH T32 fellowship investigating the role of whole-grain intake on whole-body and skeletal muscle protein metabolism. Dr. Mey’s other research interests include understanding the role of ketone bodies in metabolic health and identifying novel biomarkers of malnutrition in the breath. Dr. Mey remains an active volunteer for dietetic practice groups of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is passionate about elevating the dietetic profession.

  • Visiting Scholar
    University of Legon, 2010
  • BA Public Health
    John Carroll University, 2011
  • MS Exercise Physiology
    Cleveland State University, 2016

Christopher Axelrod is the director of the IPMM laboratory. Christopher oversees day-to-day operation of the clinical, pre-clinical, and discovery-based programs. His research applies a bioenergetic lens to understanding the pathogenesis and treatment of complex metabolic diseases such as insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and cancer. Current interests include development and testing of mitochondrial targeted pharmacotherapies, redox homeostasis in aging and disease, and therapeutic applications of metabolic surgery.

  • MS Human Nutrition
    Louisiana State University, 2012
  • PhD Nutrition Sciences
    Louisiana State University, 2015
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship
    Pennington Biomedical Research Center, 2020

Dr. Rebello registered dietitian and research scientist in the IPMM laboratory. Following receipt of the NIH K99/R00 award, Dr. Rebello is developing a research program to explore the effect of food components on obesity and insulin resistance at the molecular and clinical level. Dr. Rebello has broader interest on the development of sustainable interventions to promote healthy aging that target the physiology underlying obesity and insulin resistance.

  • BS Kinesiology
    Metropolitan United College, 2004
  • MS Kinesiology
    University of Sao Paulo, 2014
  • Visiting Scholar
    Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, 2018
  • PhD Kinesiology
    University of Sao Paulo, 2019

Dr. Dantas is a postdoctoral research fellow in the IPMM laboratory. His current work is focused on determining molecular mechanisms governing exercised-induced improvements in glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes. Dr. Dantas has a broad interest in mitochondrial function and the pleiotropic benefits of exercise training, bariatric surgery, and dietary restriction across the lifespan.

  • BS Biochemistry
    John Carroll University, 2010
  • MS Nutrition
    Case Western Reserve University, 2017
  • PhD Nutrition
    Case Western Reserve University, 2021 (Anticipated)

Elizabeth Zunica is a postdoctoral research fellow in the IPMM laboratory and is mentored by Dr. John P. Kirwan. Her current work is focused on pre-clinical therapeutics in mouse models of aggressive breast cancer. Elizabeth has a broad interest in cellular metabolism and nutritional biochemistry with a focus on changes in mitochondrial function associated with disease and in response to therapeutic interventions.

  • BS Biology
    University of New Orleans, 2014
  • MS Kinesiology
    Louisiana State University, 2023 (anticipated)

Kathryn Pergola is a research associate in the IPMM laboratory.. Kathryn works as a clinical-translational scientist, bridging laboratory and clinical research with focus on mechanisms of obesity, type II diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, high-fat feeding, and bariatric surgery aimed at improving metabolic health. Kathryn's current research interests are the effects of exercise training on metabolic health.

  • BS Kinesiology
    University of Louisiana, 2019
  • MS Kinesiology
    University of Louisiana, 2021
  • PhD Kinesiology
    Louisiana State University, 2026 (Anticipated)

Elizabeth Heintz is a doctoral student in the IPMM laboratory and is mentored by Dr. John P. Kirwan. Her current work is focused on the role of mitochondrial solute carriers in the regulation of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Elizabeth has a broader interest in exercise physiology with a focus on mitochondrial adaptations associated with aging and chronic disease.

Marianne Pineda Gil
Bioinformatics, Louisiana State University

Khyli Campagna
Animal Sciences, Louisiana State University

Megan Dousay
Microbiology, Louisiana State University

Hanna Lee
Biochemistry, Louisiana State University

Research In Focus