Debbie McKenzie, PhD

Professor, Faculty of Science - Biological Sciences


Professor, Faculty of Science - Biological Sciences
1-30 Brain And Aging Research Building
8710 - 112 St NW
Edmonton AB
T6G 2M8


Area of Study / Keywords

Prions Infectious Disease Chronic Wasting Disease Muscle Aging Mitochondrial DNA Deletion Mutations


The major research focus of my lab is chronic wasting disease (CWD), a prion disease affecting deer, elk and moose. Prions are unique pathogenic agents, consisting primarily, if not solely, on misfolded conformations of a normal host protein. We are using a number of different model systems, ranging from cell-free to cell culture to primary neuronal cultures to whole lab animals, to address questions regarding the etiology and pathogenesis of CWD. Research is performed in the state-of-the-art Centre for Prions and Protein Folding Diseases. My research focuses on: 1) the role of Prnp genetics on susceptibility to prion infection, 2) CWD strains, 3) prion disease intra- and inter-species transmission and 4) development of biomarkers for prion diseases.

A second research focus is the role of mitochondria in aging processes. We focus primarily on sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass and function with age. Our approaches include digital PCR, histology and immunohistochemistry, to determine the mechanisms of muscle fiber loss, with age.


Biol 298: Understanding Biological Research (Fall Term)

Biol 310/510: Biology of Aging (Fall Term) co-taught with Judd Aiken and Satyabrata Kar

Biol 409/509: Zoonoses (Fall Term) co-taught with Dan Barreda

Biol 642: Seminar in Physiology, Cell and Developmental Biology (Fall and Winter Terms)

Biol 398, 399, 498, 499: Undergraduate Research Projects

Undergraduate researchers are welcome in the lab. Research projects are available for both the prion and aging programs. Please note that undergraduates cannot work with infectious prions.


BIOL 298 - Understanding Biological Research

An introduction to the process of scientific research including the different approaches to research within biology, formulating research questions, hands-on skill development, experimental design, data collection and analysis, critical thinking, communication of findings, ethics, and career opportunities. Students will attend lectures and selected seminars, and participate in biological research under the supervision of an academic staff member in the Department of Biological Sciences. Open to undergraduate students in the Faculty of Science with preference given to students in Honors and Specialization Programs in the Department of Biological Sciences, and BSc General students (Biological Sciences major). Consent of Department of Biological Sciences required. All students must apply for admission. Prerequisite: BIOL 107 or 108 or SCI 100. See the Biological Sciences website for more details at

Fall Term 2020

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