May 9, 2024

School of Medicine’s Maik Hüttemann earns Board of Governors’ Faculty Recognition Award

Wayne State University’s Board of Governors recognized outstanding faculty achievements by bestowing its annual Faculty Recognition Awards to five full-time faculty members, including the School of Medicine’s Maik Hüttemann, Ph.D.

The winners, announced April 26, were selected for showing remarkable achievements or accomplishments during the previous academic year. Dr. Hüttemann is professor of Molecular Medicine and Genetics, and of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology; and Division Director for Research in the Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics.

The board specifically recognized the publication of “Cytochrome c lysine acetylation regulates cellular respiration and cell death in ischemic skeletal muscle” (Nature Communications, 2023). Dr. Hüttemann has pioneered the discovery of regulatory protein modifications in mitochondria, particularly phosphorylation, which alters protein activity.

“This annual recognition underscores the board’s dedication to promoting a culture of excellence and innovation among Wayne State’s faculty,” said Shirley Stancato, chair of the Board of Governors. “These awards not only show our appreciation for our faculty’s rigorous discipline, they incentivize them to pursue exceptional academic and professional achievements.”

Dr. Hüttemann’s research centers around the powerhouses of the cell called mitochondria, which generate more than 90% of the cell’s energy, and are also the primary source of reactive oxygens species (sometimes called “free radicals”), which damage the cell and are generated in large amounts during conditions of cellular stress.

“I very much appreciate being selected by my peers for this prestigious award. It isn’t just a major recognition of myself but also for all the people in my lab who are hard-working and making these discoveries happen, and even beyond my lab, because I am collaborating with scientists here at WSU, within the U.S., and around the globe. It’s a true team effort,” Dr. Hüttemann said.

The Faculty Recognition Award honors their work on how mitochondria behave during conditions of stress, in particular conditions in which blood supply to the tissue is disrupted, such as during a stroke, a heart attack, or medical procedures such as knee replacement surgery, where a tourniquet is placed around the leg.

“Here we explored of how skeletal muscle tissue behaves when blood flow to the muscle is restricted leading to a situation where there is no or very little oxygen (“ischemia”), which is very stressful for the cell because it needs oxygen to generate energy,” Dr. Hüttemann said. “We discovered that during ischemia a small chemical modification called acetylation is added to the key mitochondrial protein Cytochrome c (Cytc). Cytc is a life- and death-decision maker in the cell as it is an essential protein involved in the energy production process - its pro-life function.”

In contrast, during conditions of stress it can be released from the mitochondria, which triggers a cell death cascade (apoptosis).

Dr. Hüttemann’s other primary areas of research include basic research related to cancer, and translational research, in which he has discovered specific wavelengths of near infrared light that allows control of mitochondrial function during conditions of stress to prevent the production of free radicals, such as during a stroke.

“Academic excellence is the core of our mission,” said President Kimberly Andrews Espy, Ph.D. “These awardees are an excellent representation of Wayne State’s talented, diverse faculty who are preparing the next generation for the challenges facing our rapidly changing world. These outstanding faculty share their expertise broadly by disseminating through high impact publications, creations and other scholarly venues that have deep and broad local to global impact.”

Each recipient receives an award of $2,500. Nominations can be submitted by individual faculty members or by a group of faculty members. Recipients were selected by an advisory committee of their peers, all of whom are previous winners.

To read more about the awards, visit

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