Dr. Lessard is currently an Assistant Investigator in the section of Clinical, Behavioral and Outcomes Research at the Joslin Diabetes Center, and Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Exercise training is a clinically important therapy for the treatment and prevention of many diseases, including the metabolic syndrome, diabetes and obesity. The focus of her research is to determine the molecular mechanisms behind the powerful clinical benefits of exercise in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. Dr. Lessard's lab employs an integrative, multi-disciplinary approach including animal models, tissue culture, in vivo and in vitro genetic manipulations, as well as human studies to elucidate the mechanisms that mediate the health-promoting effects of exercise. Many of the health benefits attributed to exercise training are thought to stem from adaptations in skeletal muscle, since this highly malleable tissue undergoes multiple molecular and morphological changes that support metabolic health in response to exercise. Therefore, Dr. Lessard's lab investigates the specific contributions of skeletal muscle to health and disease.
Work is centered in 2 areas:
Molecular mediators of aerobic capacity. Low exercise-capacity is one of the strongest predictors of disease and mortality, and impaired exercise capacity is an early complication in patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Dr. Lessard aims to determine the mechanisms that mediate improvements to exercise capacity and metabolic health with exercise training, with the ultimate goal of improving exercise capacity in populations at risk for metabolic disease.
Regulation of muscle mass. Muscle wasting is a pathological condition that frequently occurs in conjunction with aging and several age-associated chronic disease states including obesity and diabetes. The loss of muscle mass with age and chronic disease is one of the strongest predictors of morbidity and mortality. Thus, a major objective of Dr. Lessard's research program is to uncover the mechanisms that contribute to muscle loss with age and metabolic disease.