Dr. Krista Vandenborne’s research has focused on the implementation of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) to characterize skeletal muscle in patients. Her laboratory has applied magnetic resonance to the study of skeletal muscle in numerous animal models and a variety of patient populations. Over the last ten years, she has been leading the efforts at the University of Florida to develop a strong translational research program dedicated to the development and validation of MR imaging biomarkers for muscular dystrophy. She serves as the current Director of this project, known as ImagingDMD, which is focused on the development and validation of MRI/MRS biomarkers in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. ImagingDMD has collected longitudinal MR images, functional data, clinical endpoints, demographics, and biosamples in ~180 patients with DMD, with 1-9 year followup. The comprehensive natural history data set acquired by ImagingDMD is viewed as one of the field’s most valuable resources for clinical trial design and is utilized by academia, industry and governmental organizations modeling disease trajectory.
My research laboratory in the UF McKnight Brain Institute is funded by multiple NIH grants and focuses on respiratory neuromuscular control and rehabilitation. Current projects are focused on 1) developing gene therapy approaches for respiratory neuromuscular disorders, 2) electrical and pharmacological stimulation of the spinal cord to promote respiratory motor recovery after spinal cord injury, and 3) understanding the spinal neural circuits that modulate respiratory motor output in health and disease.
I serve as Director of the UF Rehabilitation Science PhD Program http://rehabsci.phhp.ufl.edu/ and am also PI of an NIH T32 Training Grant https://pt.phhp.ufl.edu/train-with-us/t-32/. I also serve as the Associate Director of the Center for Respiratory Research and Rehabilitation at UF https://crrr.phhp.ufl.edu/. The Center brings researchers together from throughout the UF campus in a collaborative effort to advance the understanding and treatment of neuromuscular disorders that compromise respiratory and related non-respiratory movements.
Sean Forbes, PhD is a Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy. Sean completed his doctoral studies at the University of Western Ontario (School of Kinesiology), where his research focused on skeletal muscle bioenergetics using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). Following graduate studies, he completed post-doctoral fellowships with Dr. Ron Meyer at Michigan State University (Department of Physiology) and Drs. Krista Vandenborne and Glenn Walter in the Muscle Physiology Laboratory at the University of Florida. Sean’s primary research interests involve implementing novel MRI/MRS techniques to monitor the progression of disease and treatments in muscular dystrophies. His research utilizes a translational approach, and he is currently examining the effects of potential therapeutic interventions and exercise on skeletal muscle and cardiac function.
Donovan J. Lott, PT, PhD, CSCS, completed his undergraduate degree in Exercise Science at Brigham Young University and his MSPT degree at Washington University School of Medicine. After working in both outpatient and home-health settings as a physical therapist, he returned to Washington University to obtain a PhD in Movement Science with an emphasis in soft tissue mechanics. Donovan came to the University of Florida as a post-doctoral fellow to work with Krista Vandenborne, PhD, PT, in the Muscle Physiology Laboratory. Currently, he is a Research Associate Professor within the Department of Physical Therapy, and his primary teaching responsibilities are in the Basic Skills II and Prosthetics & Orthotics courses for the entry-level DPT students. His research interests include investigating skeletal muscle damage, exercise, and the relationship between muscle pathology and functional mobility in people with neuromuscular disease
As an assistant director of clinical education, Dr. MacPherson mentors and assists students as they embark on their clinical experiences. In conjunction with his teaching responsibilities and duties within the clinical education team, he leads the student-run pro bono Equal Access Clinic (PT EAC). The EAC offers free physical therapy services to people within the Gainesville community who are unable to afford treatment elsewhere.
Gordon S Mitchell Ph.D.
Dr. Mitchell joined the University of Florida in 2015 as a Preeminence Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Physical Therapy and McKnight Brain Institute. He opened and directs the UF Center for Breathing Research and Therapeutics (BREATHE) and an NIH-funded graduate and postdoctoral training program of the same name. A major focus of BREATHE is to understand and treat impaired breathing and airway defense (swallowing/cough) caused by neuromuscular injury or disease. For the past three decades, Dr. Mitchell pioneered studies of neuroplasticity in the neural system controlling breathing. Areas of active investigation include: cellular and molecular mechanisms of long-lasting motor plasticity triggered by repeated exposure to low oxygen (intermittent hypoxia), the ability to harness that intermittent hypoxia-induced plasticity to treat respiratory and non-respiratory paralysis following spinal injury, mechanisms of spontaneous and induced compensation during motor neuron diseases such as ALS, cell-based strategies to treat breathing deficits, and the impact of systemic inflammation on breathing and its control. Investigations span intracellular, intercellular and physiological systems level mechanisms, and translation to humans with traumatic and neurodegenerative clinical disorders (SCI and ALS). Dr. Mitchell grew up in California where he received his B.S. (biological sciences) and PhD (Developmental and Cell Biology) degrees from the University of California at Irvine. After two years of post-doctoral training at the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine in Gottingen, Germany, he moved to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he became an Assistant Professor. There, he ascended the ranks to become Professor and Chair of the Department of Comparative Biosciences (17 years) and director of the NIH funded Respiratory Neurobiology Training Program (14 years). He chose to leave the University of Wisconsin for the opportunity to join the University of Florida and create BREATHE (formerly known as the Center for Respiratory Research and Rehabilitation, or CRRR). Dr. Mitchell has been recognized for both his research and teaching accomplishments, including a National Institutes of Health MERIT Award, the Norden Distinguished Teacher Award, the Pfizer Research Award on multiple occasions, the Steenbock Professorship for Behavioral and Neural Science, and distinguished lectureships from the Society for Neuroscience (SFN), American Physiological Society (APS), Association of Chairs of Departments of Physiology (ACDP), and the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA).
Rachelle Studer-Byrnes, PT, DPT,NCS received her Doctor of Physical Therapy from the University of St. Augustine in 2007. In 2012 she became an ABPTS Neurological Certified Specialist and served as the coordinator and mentor for three years for a neurological residency program. In 2020 she received the Clinical Excellence in Neurology, awarded by the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy, APTA. Her practice started in the inpatient rehabilitation setting with a focus of practice on the treatment of patients following stroke along with complex neurological, cardiac, and traumatic orthopedic injuries for seven years prior to transitioning to the acute care setting. She practiced in the acute care setting for six years in both the ICU and step-down units with a focus of practice on the acute management of patients post-stroke and those with neurodegenerative diseases and disorders while also practicing in the areas of cardiac, neurosurgical and post-traumatic injuries. She currently dedicates her services to the community outreach and pro-bono efforts of the Department of Physical Therapy. Her primary teaching role is within the neurological coursework and contributes to the acute care and therapeutic exercise content for the University of Florida Physical Therapy entry level doctoral curriculum. In her role on the clinical education team she enjoys providing mentorship and assistance to students as they navigate their transition into their clinical experiences.