Section: Overview
Overview
Key publications
Research funding
Supervising & teaching
Career

Key details

Areas of expertise

  • Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
  • Skeletal muscle wasting
  • Cachexia
  • Mitochondria in health and disease
  • Pre-clinical pharmaceutical testing

Available to supervise research students

Not available for media queries

About Emma Rybalka

Emma is a Principal Research Fellow (Skeletal Muscle Biology) and Lecturer (Developmental Biology) and directs the Inherited and Acquired Myopathies Program at the VU-affiliated, Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal Science in Melbourne. Her research is focused on targeting mitochondrial and metabolic systems to treat skeletal muscle wasting, particularly in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) and cachexia caused by anti-cancer chemotherapy. Her PhD research illuminated a mitochondrial Complex I deficiency in muscles from dystrophin-deficient mdx mice, and consequently mitochondria as druggable targets to treat DMD. This work has instigated ongoing collaborations with the pharmaceutical industry and propelled new avenues for translational research. Emma has established pre-clinical drug efficacy and safety testing capacity for DMD within her lab, including a colony of dystrophic mdx mice and a suite of reputable commercial testing equipment. Her team uses a range of basic and applied techniques including strength, locomotor and behaviour assessment, respirometry/plethysmography, and imaging on live animals; cell and tissue culture, live cell imaging, immuno-/histological and molecular studies, and mitochondrial function using Seahorse extracellular flux.

Emma has an internationally recognised research track in neuromuscular disease. She is an active reviewer for many top tier journals and funding agencies, is a member of international neuromuscular disease consortium, TREAT-NMD as well as the extended TREAT-NMD Advisory Committee for Therapeutics (TACT), consults for several international pharmaceutical companies invested in rare neuromuscular disease drug development, and sits on the VU's Animal Ethics Committee.

In 2020, Emma was made an honorary Senior Research Fellow with the Department of Medicine - Western Health at the University of Melbourne and in 2021, a Research Associate with the Clinical Neuromuscular Research Group at University Children's Hospital Basel, Switzerland. She has established academic and clinical collaborators in both Australia and abroad and strong ties with industry. 

Qualifications

  • PhD, Victoria University, Australia, 2008
  • BSc (Hons), Victoria University, Australia, 2001

Key publications

Year Citation
2022 Campelj, D. G., Timpani, C. A., & Rybalka, E. (220201). Cachectic muscle wasting in acute myeloid leukaemia: a sleeping giant with dire clinical consequences. Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, 13(1), (42-54).

doi: 10.1002/jcsm.12880

2021 Kourakis, S., Timpani, C. A., Campelj, D. G., Hafner, P., Gueven, N., Fischer, D., & Rybalka, E. (211201). Standard of care versus new-wave corticosteroids in the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy: Can we do better?. Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases, 16(1),

doi: 10.1186/s13023-021-01758-9

2021 Timpani, C. A., & Rybalka, E. (211201). Calming the (Cytokine) storm: Dimethyl fumarate as a therapeutic candidate for covid-19. Pharmaceuticals, 14(1), (1-15).

doi: 10.3390/ph14010015

2021 Campelj, D. G., Goodman, C. A., & Rybalka, E. (210702). Chemotherapy-induced myopathy: The dark side of the cachexia sphere. Cancers, 13(14),

doi: 10.3390/cancers13143615

2021 Campelj, D. G., Timpani, C. A., Cree, T., Petersen, A. C., Hayes, A., Goodman, C. A., & Rybalka, E. (210501). Metronomic 5-fluorouracil delivery primes skeletal muscle for myopathy but does not cause cachexia. Pharmaceuticals, 14(5),

doi: 10.3390/ph14050478

2021 Kourakis, S., Timpani, C. A., de, Haan., Gueven, N., Fischer, D., & Rybalka, E. (210101). Targeting Nrf2 for the treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Redox Biology, 38

doi: 10.1016/j.redox.2020.101803

2021 Gueven, N., Ravishankar, P., Eri, R., & Rybalka, E. (210101). Idebenone: When an antioxidant is not an antioxidant. Redox Biology, 38

doi: 10.1016/j.redox.2020.101812

2021 Rybalka, E., & Timpani, C. A. (210101). Micro (mRNA) molecules could pack a big punch in the fight against neuromuscular disease. Journal of Physiology, 599(1), (5-6).

doi: 10.1113/JP280872

2021 Rybalka, E., Goodman, C. A., Campelj, D. G., Hayes, A., & Timpani, C. A. (210101). Adenylosuccinic acid: a novel inducer of the cytoprotectant Nrf2 with efficacy in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Current Medical Research and Opinion, 37(3), (465-467).

doi: 10.1080/03007995.2020.1865699

2020 Rybalka, E., Timpani, C. A., Debruin, D. A., Bagaric, R. M., Campelj, D. G., & Hayes, A. (201210). The Failed Clinical Story of Myostatin Inhibitors against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: Exploring the Biology behind the Battle. Cells, 9(12),

doi: 10.3390/cells9122657

Research funding for the past 5 years

Please note:

  • Funding is ordered by the year the project commenced and may continue over several years.
  • Funding amounts for contact research are not disclosed to maintain commercial confidentiality.
  • The order of investigators is not indicative of the role they played in the research project.

Targeting the gut as a novel therapeutic intervention for fatal inherited muscular dystrophy  
From: The Jack Brockhoff Foundation
For period: 2023-2024
$149,874

Towards the clinic: Evaluating the long-term efficacy of re-purposed dimethyl fumarate for the treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
From: Research Grant (AFM-Telethon), Institute for Health and Sport
Other investigators: Dr Cara Alexandrescu
For period: 2022-2025
$620,173

Re-purposing Dimethyl Fumarate to Treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
From: Muscular Dystrophy Association (USA)
For period: 2021-2022
$24,466

How do common childhood chemotherapy regimens induce life-long skeletal muscle dysfunction and wasting when administered to paediatric mice?
From: Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal Science (AIMSS)
Other investigators: Prof Alan Hayes
For period: 2017-2018
$10,000
Translational metabolic and molecular therapies for the treatment of duchenne muscular dystrophy.
From: College of Health and Biomedicine, University Children's Hospital, Basel, VU Internal Funding
For period: 2017-2018
$109,519
Pre-clinical Safety Evaluation of Purine Nucleotide Therapy for the Treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
From: Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal Science (AIMSS)
Other investigators: Prof Alan Hayes
For period: 2017-2018
$10,000
College of Health & Biomedicine - Recovery of samples spoilt during a lab problem.
From: Cunningham Lindsey
Other investigators: Ms Madonna Hannan
For period: 2017-2017
Not disclosed

Supervision of research students at VU

Available to supervise research students

Not available for media queries

Currently supervised research students at VU

No. of students Study level Role
3 PhD Associate supervisor
1 PhD Principal supervisor

Currently supervised research students at VU

Students & level Role
PhD (3) Associate supervisor
PhD (1) Principal supervisor

Completed supervision of research students at VU

No. of students Study level Role
4 PhD Associate supervisor
2 PhD Principal supervisor

Completed supervision of research students at VU

Students & level Role
PhD (4) Associate supervisor
PhD (2) Principal supervisor

Teaching activities & experience

Emma is the unit convenor of HBM3106 Reproductive and Developmental Biology taught within the HBB Bachelor of Biomedicine and HBBS Bachelor of Biomedical Science degrees.

She also teaches into the Science Honours program and supervises research projects within HBM3105 Research Project.

Key academic roles

Dates Role Department / Organisation
Jan 2020 - Present
Course Chair - Bachelor of Biomedicine
Victoria University
Mar 2022 - Present
Research Associate
University Children's Hospital Basel
Apr 2021 - Present
Director, Inherited and Acquired Myopathies Program
Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal Science
Mar 2021 - Present
Honorary Senior Research Fellow
University of Melbourne
Show more academic roles
Dates Role & Department/Organisation
Jan 2020 -
Present
Course Chair - Bachelor of Biomedicine
Victoria University
Mar 2022 -
Present
Research Associate
University Children's Hospital Basel
Apr 2021 -
Present
Director, Inherited and Acquired Myopathies Program
Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal Science
Mar 2021 -
Present
Honorary Senior Research Fellow
University of Melbourne
Show more academic roles