Ian R. Lanza, Ph.D.
Mayo Clinic location: Rochester, Minnesota
Research topic or interests: Molecular and cellular basis of beneficial adaptations to exercise; the influence of chronic inflammation on skeletal muscle in the context of aging, obesity, and cancer; and metabolomics as a tool for solving undiagnosed diseases
Why did you choose research as a career?
My first career choice would be 'perpetual student' because I enjoy learning. A career in research is close to that, but a little more lucrative. I enjoy the freedom of pursuing whatever interests me. There are few other careers that allow this sort of freedom.
What type of research are you doing?
I am a hybrid of a basic scientist and an applied physiologist. Most of my research involves mechanistic intervention studies (e.g., nutrition, exercise and pharmacology) in humans who are at risk for metabolic disease or skeletal muscle disorders. At the same time, we conduct studies in cell culture and model systems to answer questions that would be impossible in human research.
How does the Center for Biomedical Discovery fuel your research?
The support I receive from the center provides me with resources I need to take my research to the next level. My research program is built on a foundation of grant support from National Institutes of Health, but these grants have pretty narrow guardrails and limit the extent to which risky, hypothesis-generating studies can be accomplished.
The Career Development Award allows me to pursue new ideas that are outside of the scope of funded research projects. Not all of these ideas may pan out in the end, but a few will hopefully form the foundation of new, high-impact areas of discovery.
How do you hope your research will advance our understanding of disease?
My research program centers on the notion that exercise is medicine. We are specifically interested in understanding how certain chronic conditions, such as inflammation, can substantially limit an individual's ability to respond to exercise.
Rather than abandon exercise as a therapeutic strategy in those individuals, we focus on designing adjunctive therapies to be used alongside exercise to boost the beneficial responses in people who stand to benefit the most, such as those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cachexia and sarcopenia.
In the undiagnosed disease space, we hope to bring the study of small molecule products of metabolism, called metabolomics, forward as an analytical tool into the cause of rare diseases.