Research Update from 2023 accelerators Runner-Up Jonathan Dietz, PhD


Research Update from 2023 accelerators Runner-Up Jonathan Dietz, PhD


In June 2023, Jonathan Dietz, PhD presented his research project “The Role of Metaxins in Mitochondrial Health and Homeostasis” during the Big Pitch event at UMDF’s annual conference on Mitochondrial Medicine. As a Runner-Up, his project was still widely supported by accelerator voters, and consequently his work was funded by The Logan Sloane Aronson Research Fund in honor of Sydney Breslow, a UMDF Family Impact Fund.

Early in 2024, we caught up with Dr. Dietz for an update on his research, its potential impact, and his overall experience at Mitochondrial Medicine 2023.

You might be wondering, “What are metaxins? What do they do?”

Metaxins are proteins in the outer membrane of the mitochondrion, and as Dr. Dietz explained, “they actually mediate the incorporation of proteins into the mitochondria.”

His work with C. elegans animal models will focus on investigating metaxins from a 2-pronged approach. From a cell biology standpoint, Dr. Dietz will monitor the lifespan and aging of the mutants, those C. elegans lacking in metaxins. He’s also examining if the C. elegans lacking metaxins result in neurodegeneration. At the molecular level, Dr. Dietz is hoping to learn more about how metaxins and the lack of metaxins affect mitochondrial movement and function in neurons and how that impacts the health in the neuron itself.

Dr. Dietz hopes that this year, they’ll “…have some convincing and strong data to really solidify how the metaxins are involved in aging and mitochondrial health.”

As he said, “This work will impact the field beyond just researchers. We’re hoping that this work lays the groundwork to develop new therapies and treatments for various neurodegenerative disorders and diseases, along with improving the health of individuals during the aging process.”

Dr. Dietz’s time at Mitochondrial Medicine 2023 was briefer than he would have liked, as he had also attended, earlier that week, a C. elegans research conference. But when asked to describe his experience, he said in a word that it was “humbling.”

As he said, “I’ve never been to a conference in which there were researchers, doctors and families and patients. Honestly, it brought me back to the roots of why I had gotten into biomedical research to begin with, and that was to help people find cures for diseases that there were no cures for. It really, really brings purpose to the work that we are all doing.”

Jonathan Dietz, PhD is a member of the Rongo Lab at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers University. We’re looking forward to following the research of Dr. Dietz and learning more from his work about the impact of metaxins on mitochondrial health, neurodegeneration, and the aging process itself.