Member Center > Professional Development > Mentorship Program > ACMT Mentors > Mentor - Daniel Rusyniak

Daniel Rusyniak, MD, FACMT

Contact Information:

Indiana University

1050 Wishard Blvd, Rm2200

Indianapolis          IN

Te;: 317 630-7276         


Mentoring Services Offered:

Develop Inpatient Toxicology Services

Academic/Research Development

Career Development

Develop Leadership Skills


Establishing a niche within toxicology

Establishing a research career within toxicology

Creating teaching oppurtunities within your institution


As a Chemistry major at Villanova University (1990 graduate) I worked in the laboratory of Barry Selinsky conducting research on the toxicity of the anesthetic Halothane. Although at the time, I would have described my role in the project as pipetting urine and cleaning glassware, this experience would plant in me the interests which would define my career – research and toxicology. After college I accepted a job as a biomedical researcher for the pharmaceutical giant Hoffman-La Roche. Working in their diagnostics division, I was responsible for designing new tests for the detection of drugs of abuse. One of the tests I developed was an assay for amphetamines –compounds that would become the focus of my future research. After two years in of corporate researcb, I left to attend medical school at Wake Forrest University. In my second year of medical school, I signed up for a research elective in the laboratory of Dr. Barbara Bennett. Her lab was focused on determining the mechanisms by which MDMA caused neuronal cell death.

After medical school I completed a residency in Emergency Medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine. This would turn out to be a critical step in my career as IU had one of the finest Medical Toxicology programs in the country (IUSM Medical Toxicology Fellowship). Within the first month of my residency I knew that I wanted to be a medical toxicologist. This field of medicine combines my interests in clinical medicine with my research interests in toxicology. Throughout my toxicology fellowship a question continued to come up: “How do adrenergic drugs cause life-threatening hyperthermia?” This was exemplified one night when I was called to see a teenage boy who had taken MDMA at a rave party. He presented to the ED with a body temperature of 108.5 degrees. I became obsessed with how a drug, like MDMA, could make a person into a furnace. Since the mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell I began my research there. When a drug or chemical interrupts the mitochondria’s ability to generate ATP, the mitochondria can become heat generating furnaces – a process known as uncoupling. Early on my research characterized the effects MDMA on mitochondria obtained from the muscles and livers of rats. This work showed that while MDMA did not uncouple mitochondria in vitro (isolated mitochondria experiments) it did in vivo. Working with Dr. Jon Sprague, at Ohio Northern University, we showed that MDMA uncoupled mitochondria in the skeletal muscle of rats by acting on adrenergic receptors. As such, we showed that drugs which block alpha-1 and Beta-3 receptors were potential treatments for MDMA-mediated hyperthermia and rhabdomyolysis. We knew this process of uncoupling involved control in the central nervous system. What brain regions controlled this process were unknown.

This led to my current area of research: determining the brain regions involved in mediating the sympathetic responses to MDMA. With NIH funding, my mentor, Dr. Joe DiMicco and I have shown that the dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH) is one area involved in mediating MDMA’s effects. We are currently conducting research to determine how neurons in the DMH are activated by MDMA. To date my research has brought in nearly a million dollars in grant funding, resulted in numerous publications ( Dr. Rusyniak’s published articles) and has given me the opportunity to travel around the world. Along with my basic science research, I am a recognized expert in the field of neurotoxicology. This interest stemmed from seeing a group of men who were maliciously poisoned with heavy metal thallium. This led to my clinical interest in the diagnosis and treatment of heavy metal poisoning. I have written numerous chapters and articles and have given lectures at national and international conferences on the diagnosis and treatment of heavy metal poisoning. Along with my research and clinical interests, I remain active in numerous organizations including SAEM where I serve as the chairman of the Medical Toxicology Interest Group and the American College of Medical Toxicologists where I serve as the chairman of the Research Committee. Persons interested in my research or in Medical Toxicology can contact me via e-mail at

I Can Offer the Following:

Telephone Communications with Mentee

Email Communications with Mentee

Review of Manuscripts, Reports, and Other Technical Writing

Would Accommodate Mentee Visit to Mentor Office