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Featured Profile: Teresa Lever

Teresa Lever

University of Missouri researcher Dr. Teresa Lever is using comparative medicine to help those with swallowing disorders.

As people age, their ability to swallow quickly and safely declines with each advancing decade, but scientists are not clear why this deterioration occurs. Lever works with animals to better understand swallowing impairment, also known as dysphagia.

Dysphagia can also be caused by Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Down syndrome, fragile-X syndrome and other disorders. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, Lever investigates mice with these conditions to determine whether they develop characteristics of human dysphagia, with the ultimate goal of finding new treatments to improve swallowing function for humans and companion animals.

In addition to her work with mice, Lever has joined forces with School of Medicine colleagues and researchers from the College of Veterinary Medicine to create the MU Voice, Swallow and Airway Center (VSAC). The interdisciplinary research center has made strides in treatments for dysphagia, hoarseness, aspiration and other throat-related issues in animals and humans. Among other innovations, Lever and fellow VSAC researcher Joan Coates have invented a patented observation kennel in which dogs can be monitored voluntarily eating, a leap forward for canine dysphagia research.

Dr. Teresa Lever is an assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery in the School of Medicine with adjunct appointments in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Health Professions’ Department of Communication Science and Disorders.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine