My Research Interest.
Mitochondria are popularly known as the “powerhouse of the cell”. Although fitting for their main function of producing energy for our bodies (ATP), it only captures one facet of this cellular organelle. Mitochondria are also known to be involved in processes of ER stress, inflammation, and cell death. Properly functioning mitochondria are vital for cellular health and proper energy production within a cell. Dysfunction of mitochondria can lead to pathologies such as type II diabetes, aging, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
The ability for a mitochondrial organelle to function at optimum performance is due to it’s shape and function. For instance, healthy mitochondria regularly undergo processes of mitochondrial dynamics. Specifically, mitochondrial dynamics consist of mitochondrial fusion (two mitochondria becoming one mitochondria), mitochondrial fission (one mitochondria becoming two mitochondria), and mitophagy (breakdown of the mitochondria). The balance of mitochondrial fission and fusion allow for the intricate mitochondrial network to maintain a healthy shape. Furthermore, it is ultimately the respiration of the mitochondria that determines its overall function. More specifically, it is the ability of the mitochondrial to use the proton motive force to couple the electrochemical gradient to produce energy. Together, the healthy nature of a mitochondrial network and properly functioning respiration allow for optimal energy production.
My research experience has allowed me to become familiar with the insulin signaling cascade, anaerobic metabolic processes, aerobic metabolic processes, training adaptation and how the adaptations affect metabolism, exogenous extracellular vesicles, and the metabolic demand of lactation. Throughout these projects, I have learned to perform mitochondrial isolations in skeletal muscle and liver tissue in several different species (i.e. rats, mice, birds, lizards, and butterflies). From these mitochondrial isolations I am able to determine their respiration measurements with use of a Hansatech OxyTherm Chamber. Additionally, I have learned techniques such as qRT-PCR, Western blots, and mitochondrial complex activities.
My dissertation project will have me take a mobile biochemistry lab (Auburn University's MitoMobile) out to California, where I will collect migratory and residential birds to determine bioenergetic differences. Importantly these birds are genetically similar as they are subspecies of each other. This offers an ideal model to investigate the plastic changes that occur with such a high demand of energy required of migration. I hypothesize that migration will result in better functioning mitochondrial compared to residential birds.
My research interest is in the balance between mitochondrial function and morphology. Furthermore, I am curious about how the morphology of the mitochondrial network effects mitochondrial function, or vice versa. I ultimately would like to take the curiosity for mitochondrial function and morphology and determine how both further change with diabetes and obesity. I am interested in growing my laboratory techniques toolbox to include techniques in confocal microscopy, cell culture, animal handling, and mitochondrial flux measurements.
Here is the link to my current lab: http://www.education.auburn.edu/initiatives/muscle-biochemistry-lab-dr-andreas-kavazis/