Sarcopenia is a term coined to describe the loss of muscle mass and strength that impacts on activities of daily living. The overall program investigates the importance of muscle mass and function for healthy aging. Loss of muscle mass and strength is an independent risk factor for morbidity and mortality in a range of diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, and of course ageing. The outcomes of sarcopenia is worsened in combination with obesity, leading to a focus also on sarcopenic obesity.
Basic science projects focus on investigating the molecular regulators of muscle growth, the influence of mitochondrial dysfunction in muscle wasting conditions, fatty acid signalling in obesity and diabetes, and producing suitable models to investigate sarcopenic obesity. Translational projects investigate nutritional and pharmacological compounds to treat sarcopenia, preclinical evaluations for muscular dystrophy therapies, and applications to improve muscle coordination and decrease neuromuscular fatigue. The research team use a wide range of skills, particularly in the basic science areas of cell culture and animal models to identify the mechanisms behind the clinical conditions being investigated, and undertaking pre-clinical testing of therapeutic compounds. Human-based evaluations are performed in collaboration with other members of AIMSS as well as external collaborators to translate findings into clinical practice.

Prof Alan Hayes
Program Director
Professor Alan Hayes is the Assistant Dean, Western Centre for Health Research and Education (WCHRE) located at Sunshine Hospital and the Deputy Director of the Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal Sciences (AIMSS). Professor Hayes has over 25 years’ experience in muscle physiology studies. Professor Hayes’ doctoral studies at The University of Melbourne investigated muscle contractile and histological function in in mice with muscular dystrophy, a severe muscle wasting disease. Upon arriving at Victoria University, his research expanded to be inclusive of the importance of muscle mass and function in a variety of health conditions. As such he has extensive experience with human and animal trials as well as cell culture models, and maintains a focus on investigating potential therapies for DMD as well as the interplay between sarcopenia and obesity. Age related changes, particularly with concomitant obesity, are going to be a massive chronic disease issue as the population ages and rates of obesity arise, and thus his current focus is in trying to understand the underlying causes of sarcopenia and investigating possible treatments.

A/Prof Itamar Levinger
Linked Program Director
Associate Professor Itamar Levinger is an expert in muscle function, metabolism and cell signalling and the interaction between the skeleton, skeletal muscle and cardiovascular systems. With extensive knowledge, skills and experience in the area of exercise rehabilitation for older-adults, Associate Professor Levinger helps to link the Sarcopenia – Basic & Translational Program with the Sarcopenia – Clinical Program, of which he is Director.

Prof Andrew McAinch
Project Director
Professor Andrew McAinch is recognised internationally for his work on G protein-coupled receptors particularly those related to endocannabinoid and fatty acid signalling in obesity and diabetes. Utilising his training as a dietitian and molecular physiologist his laboratory uses cellular, animal and human interventions in search of understanding how our bodies respond and adapt to obesity and alterations in endocannabinoid signalling for identification of treatment modalities (through both pharmacologically and lifestyle interventions) to prevent and manage obesity and associated co-morbidities. His recent studies have advanced our understanding of the consequences of obesity and diabetes in a number of tissues, including skeletal muscle, kidney and heart. Professor McAinch is also a Sports Dietitian and is interested in variations in macronutrient intake and the effects of various supplements that may improve skeletal muscle function and thus alter performance or recovery.

Dr Craig Goodman
Project Director
Dr Craig Goodman is a Senior Lecturer in the College of Health and Biomedicine at Victoria University (VU). He is also an Associate Member of Victoria University’s Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL) and a Project Director at the Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal Sciences (AIMSS). Prior to arriving at VU, Dr Goodman was an Assistant Scientist in the Department of Comparative Biosciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2009-2014). His research expertise involves investigating the factors involved in the regulation of cell growth and metabolism in health and disease and, in particular, the molecular mechanisms that regulate skeletal muscle growth and atrophy. Dr Goodman has also investigated the efficacy of therapeutic molecules as potential pharmacological treatments for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and other muscle wasting conditions. Dr Goodman currently serves on the Editorial Advisory Boards of the American Journal of Physiology – Cell Physiology and Frontiers of Physiology – Integrative Physiology, and is a Faculty member of the Exercise Physiology section of F1000 Prime.

Dr David Rouffet
Project Director
Dr David Rouffet is a research associate of Victoria University’s Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL). David’s research focus is on the neuromuscular factors of human performance in healthy populations, elite sport athletes and clinical populations. He has a strong expertise with the analysis of force-velocity profiles, the study of muscle coordination during complex movements, and the investigation of the causes of neuromuscular fatigue.

Dr Emma Rybalka
Project Director
Dr Emma Rybalka is a Senior Lecturer in the College of Health and Biomedicine at Victoria University, and an Associate Member of Victoria University’s Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL). Her research expertise centres around investigating the involvement of mitochondria in skeletal muscle wasting disorders with a particular focus on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and chemotherapy-induced cachexia, and evaluating potential mitochondria-targeted therapeutics. Her work in characterising the mitochondrial dysfunction in dystophin-deficient muscle has led to international industry collaborations (Santhera Pharmaceuticals; Eli Lilly Compay; Mitochondrial Concepts Pty Ltd) demonstrating industry impact as well as the capacity to leverage commercial investment and translate her research. Dr Rybalka has over a decade of experience working with small animal models to investigate disease mechanisms and evaluate potential therapeutics.

Dr Sean Yan
Project Director
Dr Sean Yan is a lecturer and the course chair for Bachelor of Biomedical Science at Victoria University. Sean completed his MSc and PhD study at University of Wyoming in the United States, working on nutrition and development of skeletal muscle and adipose tissue. After graduating, he was awarded a fellowship from American Diabetes Association working as a research fellow at Joslin Diabetes Centre, Harvard Medical School. His main research focus at Harvard was muscle physiology and metabolism, mainly using in vitro cell culture and in vivo rodent model. In early 2013, Dr Sean Yan was awarded the Victoria University Postdoctoral Research Fellowship and moved to Australia. He started to work on genetic variants and exercise adaptations, and co-led the Gene SMART (Genes and Skeletal Muscle Adaptive Response to Training) study. Sean is currently a project director in sarcopenia at Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal Science (AIMSS) and a research fellow at Institute for Health and Sport (IHES). His current research focus includes genetic variants and muscle metabolism, nutrition and environment on muscle metabolism, with focus on mitochondrial function. Dr Sean Yan has published 27 research papers, including 11 from the last three years. He has delivered 10 invited talks in the last five years. Dr Sean Yan is member of American College of Sports Medicine, Australian Physiological Society and American Physiological Society, as well as an honorary fellow at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
  • Investigating possible therapies for sarcopenic obesity
  • Skeletal muscle effects of vitamin D in health and disease
  • Combating dynapenia in diverse ethnic groups of older adults.
  • Nutrient utilisation and energy expenditure in obesity and diabetes
  • Re-purposing drugs for the treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
  • Chemotherapy-induced mitochondrial dysfunction and atrophy of skeletal muscle
  • Novel Molecular Regulators of Skeletal Muscle Growth and Atrophy
  • The Effects of Muscle fatigue on Force Development


Our Team