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UW - South Lake Union


Kevin E. Conley, PhD


Co-Director, Translational Center for Metabolic Imaging
Professor of Radiology, Bioengineering, Physiology and Biophysics
University of Washington
Box 357115
Seattle, WA 98195-7115







The goal of Dr. Conley's lab is to develop, test and implement new in vivo diagnostic tools for early detection of disease. Our current focus is on the mitochondrial and cell energy properties that maintain cell health and identify the tipping point into cell energy failure occur in disease. 



The end result will be insights into central the role of mitochondria in human disease. We have 4 key goals:

  • Diagnosis – Combine state-of-the-art non-invasive technology coupled with basic science studies of the physiology of disease to guide development of novel diagnostic tools.  The tools are designed to 1) diagnose presymptomatic disease changes, 2) reveal the degree of disease progression, and 3) show the effectiveness of a intervention designed to treat the disease. This tools are currently focused on aging, post-cancer fatigue and Huntington’s disease. Future studies include post-stroke fatigue, kidney failure and HIV.
  • DevelopmentIn vivo diagnostic innovations provide an unprecedented window into human tissue that – for the first time – shows mitochondrial functional and adaptive variation as key to cell homeostasis. These new molecular imaging methods for direct measurement of cell metabolism, oxygenation and blood flow in vivo are developed by a multidisciplinary team composed of physicists, physiologists and physician-scientist.  A new research program focused on Mitochondrial Medicine has resulted from the insights gained from quantifying dynamic energetic fluxes and tissue blood flow. New tools in the works include functional measurement of reactive oxygen species in brain and muscle and brain oxidative phosphorylation measures.


  • Discovery – Identifying and quantifying key signaling molecules that regulate tissue function and underlie disease at the cellular level in vivo using high-sensitivity imaging measurements.  A current project is measurement of low concentration signaling molecules in brain centers regulating food intake, body weight and satiety.
  • Dissemination – A major goal is to establish the experimental procedures and spectroscopic tools sites involved in human muscle aging studies both nationally and internationally.  This dissemination provides what is currently lacking in human muscle studies - a standardized approach for characterizing mitochondrial and cell energetic properties. We currently have a highly successful collaboration with Dr. Steve Smith and colleagues at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, which is supported by an independent NIH R01 that was awarded based on the success of our collaboration.  We are in the process of expanding to 3 new sites: University of Pittsburgh, University of Florida, and the National Institutes of Aging/Baltimore Longitudinal Study. The University of Washington Team’s efforts involve installation of our procedures and training in our approach, ongoing quality control monitoring of data collected offsite, and data analysis.  Data interpretation and manuscript preparation are collaborative efforts of the UW and each site.