Energy and Metabolic Disease Group members view a marmoset MRI at the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research, as part of a study exploring links between energy metabolism and neural function. (R. Shapiro image)

Researchers and animal care staff perform a marmoset MRI

Energy Metabolism and Chronic Disease Scientific Working Group

Diseases related to aging are serious concerns for the world’s rapidly expanding population of older adults. Many of these diseases are associated with abnormalities in energy metabolism. These diseases are the focus of the Energy Metabolism and Chronic Disease (EMCD) program at the WNPRC. This group studies type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), many cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease (PD), obesity and metabolic syndrome, sarcopenia, osteoarthritis, and ocular health. EMCD researchers benefit from the WNPRC’s well-characterized aged monkey colony, which serves as a resource for many biological, behavioral, social, and clinical studies on the processes, conditions, and characteristics relevant to aging and diseases of aging. The WNPRC’s Aged Nonhuman Primate Tissue Bank, funded by the National Institute on Aging, provides tissues from aged primates available to investigators at a reasonable cost. This bank serves as a central repository for rare and valuable samples that would be too expensive to maintain in multiple facilities.

Core WNPRC staff associated with the EMCD Working Group are fully integrated into a new campus-wide program known as the Morgridge Institute Metabolism Initiative, which harnesses the expanding interest among campus researchers in the role of metabolism in disease. Officially part of the Morgridge Institute for Research, this initiative is being spearheaded by leading metabolism researchers across the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and receives funds from the Department of Nutritional Sciences, Department of Biochemistry, the Cell and Molecular Biology Program, the School of Medicine and Public Health and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. A key activity of this initiative is a monthly metabolism colloquium open to the UW-Madison community and invited guests. The colloquium features local and invited lecturers and brings together metabolism researchers to share ideas, expertise and resources.

The EMCD Working Group includes approximately 32 scientists, veterinarians and physicians from 12 universities, clinics and institutions.

Please direct research and collaboration queries to:

Ricki Colman, Ph.D.
Phone: (608) 263-3544
Send email to Dr. Colman


  • Discovering that long-term calorie restriction without malnutrition can be carried out safely in nonhuman primates, is associated with evidence of improved health, and is an important tool in understanding the biology of aging. (Ricki Colman, Richard Weindruch, Joseph Kemnitz, Rozalyn Anderson, and collaborating groups)
  • Revealing the importance of lipid metabolism in disease vulnerability and the value of molecular profiling as a means to glean biological insights into the relationship between adipose tissue function and health. (Ricki Colman and Rozalyn Anderson groups)
  • Discovering that dysfunction of PGC-1a-dependent metabolic pathways contributes to skeletal muscle aging (sarcopenia) in rhesus monkeys. (Ricki Colman and Rozalyn Anderson groups)
  • Determining for the first time in any primate species the importance of estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) in the regulation of energy homeostasis. (Jon Levine, David Abbott and Ricki Colman groups)
  • Discovering that excess calories leads to early menarche. (Ei Terasawa group)
  • Establishing the Internet Primate Aging Database (iPAD), which collects data on normal aging in a wide range of nonhuman primate species. (Joseph Kemnitz and Ricki Colman groups)
  • Establishing the WNPRC’s Aged Nonhuman Primate Tissue Bank, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and providing tissues from aged primates to investigators all over the world. (Joseph Kemnitz, Pathology Services and numerous collaborators)


  • Developing a rhesus model for cellular senescence, the process in which cells lose the ability to divide and damage neighboring cells by the factors they secrete. (Ricki Colman group, with investigators at the Mayo Clinic)
  • Understanding healthy diet and the relationship between nutrition and metabolism in common marmosets. (Ricki Colman group, with investigators at SNPRC)
  • Developing biomarkers for studies of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and implications of dietary fats in common marmosets. (Ricki Colman, Toni Ziegler and Assay Services).
  • Conducting comparative studies of osteoarthritis in humans and rhesus macaques. (Ricki Colman and Andrea Duncan)
  • Demonstrating that the beneficial effects of estrogen replacement therapy on serotonin-related gene expression in the mid-brain dorsal raphe of female marmosets are diminished by a high fat diet. (Jon Levine and Cynthia Bethea groups)