Robert Wessells, Ph.D.

Robert Wessells, Ph.D.


313-577-5494 (fax)

Robert Wessells, Ph.D.

Office Address

5275 Scott Hall

Position Title

Associate Professor 

Areas of Interest

Exercise adaptations, exercise and healthspan, exercise as therapy for progressive diseases

Narrative Bio

Dr. Wessells graduated with a B.S. in Zoology from Miami University in 1993 before acquiring a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics from Ohio State University in 2000. He received postdoctoral training in fruit fly genetics and physiology at the University of Michigan and the Burnham Institute for Biomedical Research before taking his present position in 2014.

Dr. Wessells is not accepting any new students at this time.


Exercise is a powerful protective factor against many age‐related diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Our research focuses on understanding the molecular genetic mechanisms that underlie the benefits of exercise.
Using the Drosophila model system, we seek to understand neuronal factors that control exercise behavior, muscular factors
that control adaptation to training, and adipose factors that regulate metabolism in response to training.
We use lab‐specific techniques to induce exercise and study its effect on endurance, speed, flight, and cardiac performance.


Recent Publications:

  1. Cobb, T., Damschroder, D., Wessells, R. (2021). Sestrin regulates acute chill coma recovery in Drosophila melanogaster. Insect Biochem Mol Biol Feb 4:103548.
  2. Sujkowski, A., Gretzinger, A., Soave, N., Todi, S.V., Wessells, R.J. (2020). Alpha- and Beta-Adrenergic octopamine receptors in muscle and heart are required for Drosophila exercise adaptations. PLoS Genet 16(6):e1008778. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1008778. PMID:32579604
  3. *Kim, M.J., *Sujkowski, A., Namkoong, S., Gu, B., Cobb, T., Kim, B., Ho, A., Cho, C.S., Semple, I/, Ro, S.H, Davis, C., Brooks, S.V., Karin, M., *Wessells, R.J., *Lee, J.H. (2020). Sestrins are evolutionarily conserved mediators of exercise benefits. Nature Communications 11, 190.
  4. Sujkowski, A., Ramesh, D., Brockmann, A., Wessells, R. (2017). Octopamine drives endurance exercise adaptations in Drosophila. Cell Rep. 21(7):1809-1823. PMID:29141215. PMCID: PMC5693351.

A complete list of Dr. Wessells' publications can be found at: PubMed-Wessells

Awards & Honors

  • Wayne State Univeristy-School of Medicine Teaching Award (2020)
  • Wayne State University-School of Medicine Research Award (2020)
  • NIH Cardiovascular Research Trainee (2000)
  • AHA Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (2002)
  • Weinstein Foundation Young Investigator Award (2003)
  • Glenn Foundation Award For Research In Aging (2007)


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