Michael H. Irwin, PhD

Dr. Michael H. Irwin, Research Associate Professor in the Department of Pathobiology, earned a doctorate in Cell Biology and Anatomy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham studying the molecular architecture of cartilage collagens.  He was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association Alabama Affiliate for a project that explored the molecular orientation of laminin in glomerular basement membranes.  As a Research Associate, his work focused on isolation and sequencing of a novel cell adhesion molecule present on reactive astrocytes that plays an important role in scar formation after CNS injury.  Since 1993, Dr. Irwin has been interested in transgenic animal modelling and embryonic stem cell research. Beginning in the late 1990s, his research has been concerned with modelling human diseases that are caused by mutations in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).  He came to Auburn University in 2006 to direct the Auburn University Transgenic Facility and to continue studies on transmitochondrial animal modeling.


Research Interests

The field of mitochondrial medicine has developed rapidly following the description in the late 1980s of the first mitochondrial mutations that led to human disease. However, through the late 1990s, in vivo animal models were extremely rare and limited to characterizations of spontaneous mutations.  My research interests relate to the technical hurdles associated with creating transmitochondrial research animals (i.e., animals harboring engineered mutations in the mitochondrial genome) and gene therapy approaches for correcting human diseases of the mtDNA.  Though the mitochondrial genome is small (~16.6kb in vertebrates), transfection of mtDNA or entire mitochondrial genomes into mitochondria is not possible by conventional transgenic technologies. Furthermore, recombination within mitochondria is a rare event, such that harnessing the mitochondrial recombination machinery is not feasible.   Ongoing research seeks to explore new strategies for introducing mtDNA into cells via liposome encapsulation and subsequent fusion of liposome vesicles with the outer and inner mitochondrial membranes.  Going forward, development of strategies for increasing mtDNA recombination frequency would enable techniques for introducing specific point mutations, allowing for the creation of mouse models for a variety of human diseases of the mtDNA. Another area of research involves testing unique synthetic antioxidant compounds designed to alleviate oxidative damage caused by mitochondrial dysfunction. In addition to my own research, interactive studies in animal transgenesis through the Auburn University Transgenic Facility are envisioned across a broad spectrum of interests in the life sciences at Auburn University. 

Selected Publications

  • Irwin, M.H., K. Parameshwaran and C.A. Pinkert. 2013. Mouse models of mitochondrial complex I dysfunction. Int J Biochem Cell Biol 45:34-40.
  • Parameshwaran, K, M.H. Irwin, K. Steliou and C.A. Pinkert. 2012. Protection by an antioxidant of rotenone-induced neuromotor decline, reactive oxygen species generation and cellular stress in mouse brain. Pharmacol Biochem Behavior 101:487-92.
  • Dunn, D.A., M.V. Cannon, M.H. Irwin and C.A. Pinkert. 2012. Animal models of human mitochondrial DNA mutations. Biochim Biophys Acta 1820:601-7.
  • Parameshwaran, K., M.H. Irwin, K. Steliou and C.A. Pinkert. 2012. D-Galactose, dietary sugars and modeling neurological aging. In: Preedy, V.R. (Ed.)  Food and Nutritional Components in Focus. Royal Society of Chemistry 3:670-87.
  • Cannon, M.V., D.A. Dunn, M.H. Irwin, A.I. Brooks, F.F. Bartol, I.A. Trounce and C.A. Pinkert. 2011. Xenomitochondrial mice: investigation into mitochondrial compensatory mechanisms. Mitochondrion 11:33-9
  • Parameshwaran, K., M.H. Irwin, K. Steliou and C.A. Pinkert. 2010. D-Galactose effectiveness in modeling aging and therapeutic antioxidant treatment in mice. Rejuv Res 13:729-35.
  • Shi, J., M.H. Irwin and C.A. Pinkert. 2008. Mitochondria transfer into fibroblasts: Liposome-mediated transfer of labeled mitochondria into cultured cells. Ethnicity Disease 18:S1;43-4.
  • Pinkert, C.A., M.H. Irwin and R.L. Howell. 2004. Animal biotechnology and modeling. In: R.A. Meyers (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Molecular Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine. Vol. 1, pp. 209-40. Wiley-VCH, Weinheim.
  •  Irwin, M.H., W.K. Pogozelski and C.A. Pinkert. 2002. PCR optimization for detection of transgene integration. In: C.A. Pinkert (Ed.) Transgenic Animal Technology: A Laboratory Handbook. 2nd ed., pp. 475-84. Academic Press, San Diego.
  • Pinkert, C.A., L.W. Johnson, M.H. Irwin, S. Wong, E.E. Baetge, D.F. Wolfe, S.A. Simpkins, W.F. Owsley and F.F. Bartol. 2001. Optimization of superovulation and fertilization protocols in the production of transgenic swine. Adv Reprod 5:45-53.
  • Irwin, M.H., V. Parrino and C.A. Pinkert. 2001. Construction of a mutated mtDNA genome and transfection into isolated mitochondria by electroporation.   Adv Reprod 5:59-66.
  • Irwin, M.H., L.W. Johnson and C.A. Pinkert. 1999. Isolation and microinjection of somatic cell-derived mitochondria and germline heteroplasmy in transmitochondrial mice. Transgenic Res 8:119-23.
  • Pinkert, C.A., M.H. Irwin, L.W. Johnson and R.J. Moffatt. 1997. Mitochondria transfer into mouse ova by microinjection. Transgenic Res 6:379-83.
  • Pinkert, C.A., M.H. Irwin and R.J. Moffatt. 1997. Transgenic animal modeling. In: R.A. Meyers (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Molecular Biology and Molecular Medicine, Volume 6, pp. 63-74, VCH, New York.
  • Vergara, G.J., M.H. Irwin, R.J. Moffatt and C.A. Pinkert. 1997. In vitro fertilization in mice: strain differences in response to superovulation protocols and effect of cumulus cell removal. Theriogenology 47:1245-52.
  • Irwin, M.H., R.J. Moffatt and C.A. Pinkert. 1996. Identification of transgenic mice by PCR analysis of saliva. Nature Biotechnol 14:1146-9.
  • Geisert, E.E., L. Yang and M.H. Irwin.  1996.  Astrocyte growth, reactivity and the target of the antiproliferative antibody, TAPA.  J Neuroscience 16:5478-87. 
  • Pinkert, C.A., M.H. Irwin and R.J. Moffatt. 1995. Transgenic animal technology.  In: R.A. Meyers (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Molecular Biology. VCH, New York.
  • Peduzzi, J.D., M.H. Irwin and E.E. Geisert, Jr. 1994. Distribution and characteristics of a 90 kDa protein, KG-CAM, in the rat CNS. Brain Res 640:296-307.
  • Irwin, M.H. and E.E. Geisert, Jr. 1993. The upregulation of a glial cell surface antigen at the astrocytic scar in the rat. Neurosci Lett 154:57-60.
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