About us

Cachexia is unintentional weight loss due to activation of immune, metabolic, and neuronal pathways leading to systemic catabolism in response to injury, illness, or chronic disease. After acute injury or limiting infection, cachexia is an adaptive process that leads to resolution of wounds and infections, using substrates stored in muscle, fat, and bone to promote healing. However, cachexia becomes maladaptive in chronic conditions such as organ failure, post-ICU myopathy, and cancer. Cachexia manifests as muscle loss. Low muscle mass and muscle weakness portend poor outcomes across health and disease conditions. Treating cachexia promotes response to therapy, quality of life, and length of life in animal models. Currently there are no approved, effective therapies for cachexia, resulting in a large unmet medical need and an enormous opportunity to effect change.

The Zimmers lab seeks to understand the molecular, cellular, and physiological mechanisms of cachexia in order to find targetable pathways for therapeutic intervention. We use a broad translational approach, leveraging cell culture models, mouse models, human biospecimens and big data approaches to discover contexts for therapy. We collaborate productively with surgeons, oncologists, physical therapists, and other clinicians to translate our work for people with cancer and other life-threatening conditions.

Our lab is part of the Department of Cell, Developmental, and Cancer Biology, the Knight Cancer Institute, and the Brenden-Colson Center for Pancreatic Care as well as the Portland Veterans Administration Medical Center. We are actively engaged in this stimulating environment, sharing and learning collaboratively. We are funded by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Patient Resiliency Program of the Brenden Colson Center for Pancreatic Care. Cachexia is a small but global field and our lab collaborates closely with investigators across the US and in Norway, Denmark, and Brazil.