Karen Ocorr, Ph.D.

Karen Ocorr's Research Focus

Aging-Related Diseases, Cardiomyopathies, Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome, Aging, Molecular Biology, Cardiac Fibrosis
Actin Cytoskeleton, Calcium Signaling, Cardiovascular Biology, Cell Signaling, Extracellular Matrix, Fuel Metabolism, Integrins, Metabolic Networks, Phosphorylation, Stress Response Pathways
Drosophila, Zebrafish, Larval Zebrafish Heart
Biophysiology, Cellular and Molecular Imaging, Fluorescence Microscopy, Gene Silencing, Genetics, In vivo Modeling, Ion Channels, Live Imaging, Microarrays, Microscopy and Imaging, Molecular Genetics, RNA Interference (RNAi), Systems Biology, Transgenic Organisms, Semi-automated Optical Heartbeat Analysis (SOHA)

The Ocorr Lab is investigating the cellular and molecular basis of adult heart function and cardiomyopathies using the genetic model system Drosophila.

We use functional, electrophysiological, biochemical and immunohistochemical techniques that allow us to examine the roles of genes and gene products in cardiac channelopathies and stress-related cardiomyopathies.

Our lab pioneered the development of a novel methodology (Semi-automatic Optical Heartbeat Analysis, SOHA) that permits the quantification of heartbeat parameters in model systems with small hearts.

Using this system we have identified several ion channels in the fly heart that play prominent roles in repolarization of the human heart and cause arrhythmia in both the fly and in humans when mutated. We also have developed a number of other disease models including a diabetic-like cardiomyopathy induced by high sugar diet and hypoxia-induced cardiomyopathy.

Recently we have begun collaborations with NASA (by winning a Space Florida International Space Station Research Competition). We are using the fly to uncover the molecular/cellular basis for cardiac and muscle atrophy in astronauts exposed to extended periods of microgravity despite extensive exercise regimes aboard the ISS. Our flies were launched aboard SpaceX 3 for a month-long exposure to micro-gravity.


fruit fly heart

Karen Ocorr's Bio


B.A. Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA, Biology 
Ph.D. Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, Neuroscience NIMH 
Postdoctoral Fellow - University of Texas Medical School, Houston, TX, Neuroscience NIMH 
Postdoctoral Fellow - Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, Neurochemistry


Prestigious Funding Awards or Major Collaborative Grants

2015 - 2020 NIH R01 HL132241-01A1: Using Drosophila genetics to identify molecular links between ion channel dysfunction and pathological cardiac remodeling.

(PI) 2013-2018 NASA NRA #NNH12ZTT001N: The effects of microgravity on cardiac function, structure and gene expression using the Drosophila model. (Co-I) 

Honor & Awards

  • 2014 Space Florida International Space Station Research Competition Winner – Co-investigator - One of three Basic Research proposals selected for launch aboard SpaceX3 - Mission completed, live flies returned on May 18, 2014
  • 2001 Excellence in Teaching Award, University of Michigan
  • 1997 Excellence in Teaching Award, University of Michigan
  • 1986-1988 National Institute of Mental Health Fellowship
  • 1983-1985 National Institute of Mental Health Fellowship
  • 1981 Sigma Xi Research Award 1980 MBL Scholarship, Neural Systems and Behavior Course
  • 1971-1975 National Merit Scholarship, Lehigh University
Islet clusters in the developing pancreas


Ocorr K, Reeves NL, Wessells RJ, Fink M, Chen HS, Akasaka T, Yasuda S, Metzger JM, Giles W, Posakony JW, Bodmer R
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2007 Mar 6;104(10):3943-8
Fink M, Callol-Massot C, Chu A, Ruiz-Lozano P, Izpisua Belmonte JC, Giles W, Bodmer R, Ocorr K
Biotechniques 2009 Feb;46(2):101-13
Ocorr K, Zambon A, Nudell Y, Pineda S, Diop S, Tang M, Akasaka T, Taylor E
PLoS Genet 2017 May;13(5):e1006786
Walls SM, Cammarato A, Chatfield DA, Ocorr K, Harris GL, Bodmer R
Cell Rep 2018 Mar 6;22(10):2702-2715
Zeng Q, Wan Y, Zhu P, Zhao M, Jiang F, Chen J, Tang M, Zhu X, Li Y, Zha H, Wang Y, Hu M, Mo X, Zhang Y, Chen Y, Chen Y, Ye X, Bodmer R, Ocorr K, Jiang Z, Zhuang J, Yuan W, Wu X
Curr Mol Med 2018 Mar 9;17(7):509-517