Laura Palanker Musselman, PhD

Research Instructor in Medicine


Laura Musselman was born and raised in New Jersey. She received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Cornell University in 1995. From 1995 to 2000, Laura was a researcher in the Skin Bioscience Division at Unilever Research, working on in vitro models of skin aging and irritation. In 2000, she moved west to start her Ph.D. at the University of Utah. Laura earned her Ph.D. in Genetics studying Drosophila nuclear hormone receptor function in the laboratory of Carl Thummel. There, she developed an interest in metabolism and disease. Laura came to the division in 2007 to start a postdoctoral fellowship studying mechanisms of obesity and insulin resistance with Thomas Baranski, and became a Research Instructor in 2011.

Research Interests

Our research focuses on the effects of caloric excess in Drosophila. We found that a high sugar diet leads to hyperglycemia, obesity, and insulin resistance in developing larvae, which we consider a model of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Further studies revealed a critical role for the fat body, a liver- and adipose- like organ that we have shown controls whole body glucose homeostasis. Genomics, lipid metabolomics, and loss-of-function studies have been employed to identify important pathways in the pathophysiology of fly T2DM. Our goal is to use this model to better understand the detrimental effects of caloric excess and T2DM in humans. Key questions we are currently considering in the lab include:

  • What are the metabolic pathways that contribute to T2DM? Which contribute to pathology, and which are protective?
  • How is obesity linked to T2DM? Is it a cause or simply a correlate?
  • What is the network of transcription factors that controls the response to caloric excess? (collaboration with Michael Brent)
  • Which tissues contribute to pathophysiology in the context of caloric excess? Which experience insulin resistance?