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Welcome to the Mruk Lab



Central nervous system (CNS) injuries affect multiple cell types and after the initial damage, additional tissue loss exacerbates the injury leading to permanent dysfunction. There is no effective cure for CNS injuries often leading to a lifetime of therapy and permanent disability. The Mruk Lab studies CNS injuries using the zebrafish because although the zebrafish CNS shares many organizational, cellular and molecular pathways with mammals, functional recovery occurs after injury. We use a combination of electrophysiology, fluorescent imaging, behavior, and bioinformatics to understand how the entire CNS network responds and subsequently recovers from injury.


Zebrafish models of regeneration

Cellular response to spinal cord injury

GAVPO copy.tif

Optogenetic technologies for studying development and regeneration



Karen Mruk


Mruk headshot

Natalie Clark

Medical Student


Patrick Garrett

PhD Student, Neuroscience


Payge Hoffman

PharmD Student


Kathryn Lorbacher

PhD student, Pharmacology and Toxicology


Cooper Oljeski



Tom Rynes

Lab Manager
"Renaissance Man"




Osman, EA, Rynes, TP, Wang, YL, Mruk, K and McKeague M. Non-invasive single cell aptasensing in live cells and animals. Chemical Science (2024) [Pubmed]

Purifoy, EJ and Mruk, K. Differential roles of diet on development and spinal cord regeneration in larval zebrafish Zebrafish (2024) [Pubmed]


Underwood, KL,* Walker, WJ,* Garret, PI, Linch, S, Rynes, TP, and Mruk, K. Optimizing spinal cord injury in zebrafish larvae: effects of age on the injury response (2023)  bioRxiv


Williams, R.E.; Mruk, K. Aquatic Freshwater Vertebrate Models of Epilepsy Pathology: Past Discoveries and Future Directions for Therapeutic Discovery. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022, 23, 8608. [Pubmed]


Mruk, K.*, Ciepla, P., Piza, P. A., Alnaqib, M. A., and Chen, J. K.* (2020) Targeted cell ablation in zebrafish using optogenetic transcriptional control. Development, 147: dev183640 [Pubmed]


Hwang, S., Mruk, K., Rahighi, S., Raub, A. G., Chen, C.-H., Dorn, L. E., Horikoshi, N., Wataksuki, S., Chen, J. K., and Mochly-Rosen, D. (2018) Correcting glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency with a small molecule activator. Nat. Commun. 9: 4045. [PubMed]


Mruk K. and Chen, J. K. (2015) Thinking big with small molecules. J. Cell Biol. 209: 7-9. [PubMed]

Previous Work

Kubat Öktem E, Mruk K, Chang J, Akin A, Kobertz WR, Brown RH Jr. (2016) Mutant SOD1 protein increases Nav1.3 channel excitability. J Biol Phys. 42:351-70 [Pubmed]

Mruk K, Kobertz WR. (2015) Bioreactive Tethers Adv Exp Med Biol. 869:77-100. [Pubmed]

Mruk K, Farley BM, Ritacco AW, Kobertz WR. (2014) Calmodulin meta-analysis: predicting calmodulin binding via canonical motif clustering. J Gen Physiol. 144:105-14. [Pubmed]

Mruk K, Shandilya SM, Blaustein RO, Schiffer CA, Kobertz WR. (2012) Structural insights into neuronal K+ channel-calmodulin complexes. PNAS 109:1357-83. [Pubmed]

O'Connell D, Mruk K, Rocheleau JM, Kobertz WR. (2011) Xenopus laevis oocytes infected with multi-drug-resistant bacteria: implications for electrical recordings. J Gen Physiol. 138:271-7. [Pubmed]

Mruk K, Kobertz WR. (2009) PLoS One. 4:e4236. [Pubmed]

Clancy L, Mruk K, Archer K, Woelfel M, Mongkolsapaya J, Screaton G, Lenardo MJ, Chan FK. (2005) PNAS 102:18099-104. [Pubmed]

Contact Us

East Carolina University
Brody School of Medicine
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
600 Moye Boulevard
Greenville, NC 27834

Office: (252) 744-1171

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