Kate Kosmac, Ph.D. is a research assistant professor in the physical therapy department and works within Dr. Charlotte Peterson’s lab. Dr. Kosmac received her B.S. in biology at the University of Pittsburgh and her Ph.D in neuroscience at the University of Alabama Birmingham. Dr. Kosmac has background expertise performing histological and immunohistochemical (IHC) tissue characterization, utilizing wide field and confocal microscopy techniques and quantifying fluorescently labeled structures from digital images. She joined Dr. Peterson’s lab in 2015 and began applying her technical knowledge to ongoing projects aimed at understanding mechanisms of skeletal muscle adaptation to exercise, aging, frailty and disease.
As a research assistant professor with a background in both neuroscience and immunology, my experience identifying and characterizing monocyte and macrophage populations, have helped develop my primary research goal of understanding macrophage functions during skeletal muscle adaptations to exercise, aging and disease. Macrophages are highly adaptable immune cells with known roles in skeletal muscle repair and regeneration following acute injury. However, relatively little is known regarding resident muscle macrophage functions during muscle perturbations and mobility loss associated with aging or chronic injury associated with disease. Furthermore, describing how muscle macrophages may influence metabolic responses in muscle under disease conditions may shed light on new mechanisms underlying disease associated losses in muscle mass and subsequent diminutions in muscle function and mobility. Understanding skeletal muscle macrophage functions that ameliorate or exacerbate disease may lead to new therapeutic approaches capable of effectively preventing or restoring diminished muscle function.
Additionally, I participate in an ongoing collaboration with Northwestern University focused on understanding cellular and molecular mechanisms of skeletal muscle underlying diminished function and mobility loss with peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD is common, affecting over 200 million people worldwide, and results in disability and loss of independence. PAD is hemodynamic in origin; however, skeletal muscle changes within the gastrocnemius (calf) have been documented and damage to calf muscle is recognized as a significant contributor to functional impairment. In collaboration with Dr. Mary McDermott and her team at Northwestern, we have identified novel cellular and morphological characteristics within the gastrocnemius muscle of patients with PAD. Identifying how muscle phenotype may predict individual patient responses to targeted intervention strategies, particularly exercise, will strengthen our understanding of personalized interventions most likely to produce effective, durable outcomes for patients suffering from PAD.