Dr. Marianne Wessling-Resnick joined the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 1990 as assistant professor, and in 2000, she became its first tenured woman faculty member as Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry in the Department of Nutrition. In 2003, she became a foundational faculty member in the newly formed Department of Genetics and Complex Diseases, which focuses on metabolic regulation and stress response.
Dr. Wessling-Resnick’s research program centers on metal metabolism and in particular, genetic disorders of iron metabolism. Her studies have elucidated the role of iron status (both deficiency and overload) in the regulation of iron and manganese uptake by the intestinal, pulmonary and olfactory pathways. Using animal models, her work has defined the function of the iron transporters divalent metal transporter-1 (DMT1) and ferroportin (Fpn) to characterize “iron-responsive manganese uptake.” Through these efforts, the pharmacokinetics of pulmonary manganese and iron uptake from the lungs to the blood have been established, and this research has revealed the influence of high iron diet as well as the effects of iron deficiency due to diet and phlebotomy on these pathways. A major finding has been that iron deficiency promotes manganese absorption across the olfactory tract directly into the brain. Using the Belgrade rat model, Dr. Wessling-Resnick defined the mechanistic role of DMT1 in the iron-responsive olfactory metal uptake pathway. Since manganese is a potent neurotoxin, this work highlights the need to better understand metal-metal interactions in human health, and provides evidence that occupational and environmental risks for manganese exposure could be reduced by nutritional interventions that improve iron status. More recently, Dr. Wessling-Resnick has studied flatiron mice, a murine model of “ferroportin disease” that recapitulates features of this inherited form of hemochromatosis. This research has demonstrated that Fpn mediates both iron and manganese uptake across the intestinal epithelium. In a companion investigation, her laboratory studied a different model of hereditary hemochromatosis, the hfe-knockout mouse, to show that decreased expression of the iron regulatory hormone hepcidin upregulates intestinal manganese absorption. These combined investigations have defined a novel role for hepcidin in the regulation of manganese metabolism and identified the molecular basis for iron-responsive manganese uptake in the intestine.
Currently, Dr. Wessling-Resnick is Program Director for two training grants sponsored by the National Institutes of Health at the Harvard Chan School: T32 ES016645 Interdisciplinary Training in Genes and the Environment, supporting pre-doctoral and post-doctoral training, and R25 ES020722 Summer Intern Program in Environmental Health Sciences, supporting undergraduate research experience for underrepresented minority students. Through her efforts, such training programs have provided research opportunities at HSPH to over 50 graduate students and fellows and over 25 undergraduate students in differential laboratories and departments across the Harvard Chan School. In her own laboratory, 40 postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, along with 9 visiting scientists from across the world, have been trained in research areas relating to the biology of mammalian metal transport. Dr. Wessling-Resnick’s on-going investigations are supported by two National Institutes of Health R01 research grants from NIDDK (DK064750) and NIEHS (ES014638). She has served as ad hoc reviewer for many journals, and was a Contributing Editor for Nutrition Reviews. Her past awards include a fellowship from the Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Research Fund, a Junior Faculty Research Award from the American Cancer Society, and an Established Investigator Award from the American Heart Association. Dr. Wessling-Resnick has been chair of two National Institutes of Health study section panels:Physiological Chemistry (1998 to 2002) and Integrative Nutrition and Metabolic Processes (2008 to 2012). In 2015, she received the VMRIS Outstanding Investigator Award from the Vitamins/Minerals research interest group of The American Society of Nutrition.