M. Mueckler looking at the camera in front of his microscope in 1998.
M. Mueckler looking at the camera in front of his microscope in 1998.

Cellular Biologist Michael Mueckler Dies at 67

His work centered on the mechanisms of glucose transport into cells.

Lisa Winter
Lisa Winter

Lisa Winter became social media editor for The Scientist in 2017. In addition to her duties on social media platforms, she also pens obituaries for the website. She graduated from Arizona State University, where she studied genetics, cell, and developmental biology.

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Aug 18, 2021

ABOVE: Mueckler in his lab in 1998
BECKER MEDICAL LIBRARY, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Michael Mueckler, a cellular biologist who studied glucose transport and blood sugar regulation, has died at the age of 67. According to an announcement from the Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) School of Medicine, where Mueckler worked for more than 30 years, he died of natural causes in his home on July 14.

According to his WUSTL biography, Mueckler earned a bachelor’s degree in 1976 from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and stayed there for his oncology PhD work. After graduating in 1983, he completed a three-year postdoc at MIT. He joined the faculty at WUSTL in 1986, where he remained until his retirement in 2019.

Mueckler’s work was centered around the mechanisms of glucose metabolism regulation and identifying factors that interfere with the process, leading to diabetes, certain cancers, and other conditions. For many years, his research primarily looked at how the GLUT family of membrane glycoproteins ferries sugar molecules into cells. He identified many GLUT proteins and pinpointed their locations within the body.

In the early 2000s, Mueckler’s lab investigated how HIV protease inhibitor therapy could cause insulin resistance, among other side effects. He found that GLUT4, found in adipose tissue and certain muscle tissues, was most affected by the therapy, explaining some of the drug’s complications.

Throughout his career, he coauthored 95 papers and edited a set of books about receptors and transporters. In 1998, the American Diabetes Association awarded Mueckler its Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award.

He is survived by his ex-wife, Paula Hartman, his daughter, Sita Upadhyay, and his extended family.