Joseph G. Hacia is an Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. His laboratory focuses on identifying human adaptions to diet, such as the increased exposure to animal fats. They have uncovered human-specific differences in the metabolism of phytanic acid, a branched chain fatty acid present in ruminant fats, dairy products, and certain fish, relative to the great apes, which could affect the function of multiple organ systems and transcriptomes of these species. Similar human-specific differences were observated when investigating the levels of red blood cell plasmalogens, membrane ether phospholipids critical for numerous physiological processes ranging from cognition to reproduction to aging.
His group also focuses on identifying the genetic and molecular basis for a group of human neurological disorders caused by impaired peroxisome function, such as peroxisome biogenesis disorders and X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD). In addition, Dr. Hacia's laboratory is engaged in collaborative projects aimed at identifying more effective therapeutic intervention for these disorders. This is especially important given the impending nation-wide screens for affected newborns.
Dr. Hacia was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellow, a recipient of the American Society of Human Genetics Postdoctoral Translational Research Award, and a V Foundation for Cancer Research Scholar. He has served on the editorial boards of Genome Research, Nucleic Acids Research, and BMC Genomics. He is also a member of the American Society of Human Genetics, American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy, and NIH grant review panels. Furthermore, he is active in graduate and medical education and is a Chair of Medical Education at the USC Keck School of Medicine