Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation





First Advisor

Dr. Hiroshi Saito

Second Advisor

Dr. Francisco H. Andrade


Sepsis is a severe life-threatening critical illness that damages multiple physiological systems. After hospital discharge, more than 70% of severe sepsis survivors report profound weakness which significantly impacts quality of life. Such weakness gives rise to new limitations of daily living, which ultimately leads to loss of independence in many patients. Despite wide recognition of this serious issue by clinicians and researchers alike, the mechanisms contributing to chronic skeletal muscle dysfunction after sepsis are not well understood. Lack of progress in this field is largely due to the absence of an appropriate animal model; current models are either too mild to induce muscle weakness or too severe and cause death within a few days. As such, this dissertation work first focused on establishing a clinically-relevant animal model of sepsis which yields surviving mice with chronic skeletal muscle weakness (Aim 1). This aim involved refining the cecal slurry injection model of polymicrobial sepsis in young adult animals, as well as optimizing the timing, duration, and dose of multiple therapeutic agents. The resulting resuscitation protocol was adapted for use in late-middle-aged animals, and muscle strength was evaluated using an ex vivo system which confirmed significant muscle weakness in sepsis survivors, long after sepsis was resolved. Next, using this novel model, we sought to characterize sepsis-induced long-term muscle dysfunction at the molecular level (Aim 2). The first set of experiments under this aim was designed to identify the primary global mechanism(s) (i.e. atrophy, polyneuropathy, and/or myopathy) responsible for muscle weakness in sepsis survivors. Analysis of the force-frequency curves and specific force measurements led to the conclusion that myopathy is the primary cause. Electron micrograph observation, functional assays, and protein analysis then showed that sepsis survivors’ skeletal muscles are characterized by profound mitochondrial abnormalities and oxidative damage. Collectively, these studies demonstrate that long-term muscle weakness is apparent in sepsis-surviving animals, and the functional decline is associated with unresolved mitochondrial damage and dysfunction. This work suggests that medical treatments beyond targeting muscle wasting alone could allow sepsis survivors to regain function and return to productive lives.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)