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Vitor Lira, PhD

Contact Information

Office: 4324 PBDB 
Phone: 319-335-6966 
Faculty Profile

Brief description of current research:

Skeletal muscle and heart physiology are promptly affected in obesity and diabetes often leading to skeletal muscle insulin resistance, diabetic cardiomyopathy and heart failure. A common, yet poorly understood, feature of these metabolic diseases is an inefficient turnover of proteins, which ends up compromising cellular and organ functions. Therefore, the central goal of our research is to understand the molecular mechanisms regulating protein turnover in skeletal and cardiac muscles. To this matter, exercise and calorie restriction efficiently counteract these maladaptive processes. We and others have identified the cellular catabolic process of autophagy as playing an instrumental role in these protective adaptations. Currently, we are determining the mechanisms of regulation of the autophagy process and its interaction with other metabolic pathways in skeletal muscle and in the heart. We believe these studies will inform and guide the development of new therapies for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.  

3 most influential diabetes/obesity/metabolism publications:

  • Yan Z, Kronemberger A, Blomme J, Call JA, Caster HM, Pereira RO, Zhao H, de Melo VU, Laker RC, Zhang M, Lira VA. Exercise leads to unfavourable cardiac remodelling and enhanced metabolic homeostasis in obese mice with cardiac and skeletal muscle autophagy deficiency. Sci. Rep. 7: 7894, 2017.
  • Laker RC, Drake JC, Wilson RJ, Lira VA, Lewellen BM, Ryall KA, Fisher CC, Zhang M, Saucerman JJ, Goodyear LJ, Kundu M, Yan Z. Ampk phosphorylation of Ulk1 is required for targeting of mitochondria to lysosomes in exercise-induced mitophagy. Nat. Commun. 8: 548, 2017.
  • Boland L, Burand AJ, Brown AJ, Boyt D, Lira VA, Ankrum JA. IFN-γ and TNF-α Pre-licensing Protects Mesenchymal Stromal Cells from the Pro-inflammatory Effects of Palmitate. Mol. Ther. ( December 19, 2017). doi: 10.1016/j.ymthe.2017.12.013.


“Diabetes teaches discipline and perseverance to patients. It is with that same discipline and perseverance that together we intend to improve prevention, find more and better treatments, and eventually cure the disease.”