Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology

Skeletal Muscle Damage and Disease

Further Information

Contact a supervisor for detailed information on student research projects

Assoc/Prof Anthony Bakker 
Assoc/Prof Tony Bakker

Assoc/Prof Kristen Nowak
Assoc/Prof Kristen Nowak

The School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology offers a diverse range of student research topics.

Evaluating skeletal muscle performance in mouse models of disease and superior athleticism

Project Outline

Skeletal muscle comprises up to 40% of a human’s body mass and is crucial for every day actions such as breathing, moving and swallowing. When skeletal muscles do not function properly they can cause severe diseases, such as muscular dystrophy and congenital myopathy. An emerging skeletal muscle disease associated with ageing is sarcopenia, which is tightly linked to osteoporosis and falls in the elderly.

Having the ability to study animal models is often crucial for medical researchers to better understand biology, and to then devise and evaluate potential therapies for disease. Even if certain experiments can be performed in tissue culture, ultimately studies require an animal model to be the test-bed to allow appropriate and thorough evaluation. 

We have previously successfully studied the skeletal muscle physiology of a range of mouse models. We currently have a range of mouse lines that have skeletal muscles that are either impaired or superior in function.  For those that are impaired, where mice have an inability to exercise normally, the aim is to understand why this impairment exists, and whether the application of possible treatments is efficacious. In those mouse lines with skeletal muscles that are performing better than expected (e.g. mice show an exceptionally high capacity to exercise), we would like to unravel the underlying mechanisms responsible. Once uncovered, activation of these mechanisms could be used in the future to prevent or treat skeletal muscle diseases such as muscular dystrophy.

In addition to skeletal muscle physiology techniques, students would have the opportunity to include other techniques used to phenotype mice in their tailored Honours project.  These include genetics and molecular biology, tissue biopsy and histology, immunostaining, various types of microscopy, protein and RNA extraction, voluntary running wheel analysis, and magnetic resonance imaging.

Please contact us to discuss the possible projects on offer if you are inspired to try to better understand skeletal muscle diseases and to develop therapies for them. If you choose such a project, you would use a range of exciting techniques with well-established, respected and friendly medical researchers at the School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, and at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.

Project is suitable for

Honours, Masters and PhD


Assoc/Prof Tony Bakker

Other Supervisor

Assoc/Prof Kristen Nowak

Essential qualifications

For Honours: An appropriate undergraduate degree with a minimum weighted average of 65% in the level 3 subjects that comprise the relevant major, from an approved institution. Applicants will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

For Masters or PhD : An appropriate Honours degree or equivalent research experience from an approved institution. Applicants will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

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