Mitchell receives PHHP Dean’s Citation Paper Award

Gordon Mitchell, PhD
Gordon Mitchell, PhD

At the State of the College meeting on August 27, faculty members were recognized by Dean Michael Perri with a Dean’s Citation Paper Award, acknowledging their innovation and excellence in research. Each department nominated a faculty member to receive this award.

Gordon Mitchell, PhD, professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, received the Dean’s Citation Paper Award for the article “Circadian clock genes and respiratory neuroplasticity genes oscillate in the phrenic motor system,” published in the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.

These novel findings suggests that a “molecular clock” that governs cell function across the day and night cycle not only exists in genes, but also in nerve and muscle cells needed for breathing.

Mia Kelly headshot photo
Mia Kelly

Mia Kelly, a Rehabilitation Science doctoral student in the Gordon Mitchell laboratory, led a team of investigators in a study demonstrating “clock gene” expression within phrenic motor neurons and the diaphragm. The paper reveals that genes known to be involved in plasticity, a key property of the respiratory motor control system, are expressed at different levels across the day — a daily rhythm likely governed by the molecular clock.

“The ability to harness respiratory and non-respiratory motor plasticity for therapeutic benefit could depend on the time of day,” explained Dr. Mitchell. “As our work inspires new therapies to treat respiratory insufficiency and motor impairment in devastating clinical disorders, such as spinal cord injury and ALS, we now need to keep in mind that there will be specific times during the day, or night, when our treatments will likely be most effective.”

To better understand circadian rhythms, Mia sought help from two members of her thesis committee: Michelle Gumz, PhD, associate professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology, Hypertension, and Renal Transplantation in the Department of Medicine at the UF College of Medicine, and Karen Esser, PhD, professor and associate program director of the Institute of Myology in the Department of Physiology and Functional Genomics at the UF College of Medicine.

With their assistance, and the help of others in the Mitchell lab, Mia performed the study published in this award-winning paper.

Amazing work, Mia and Dr. Mitchell. Congratulations for this well-deserved award!