Current Lab Research

Our lab uses various biophysical techniques including cryo-electron microscopy as tools to study the function of macromolecular assemblies. Of particular interest are the atomic details of protein folding as carried out by molecular chaperones like hsp27 or chaperonins like hsp60/10.


Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) and Distal Hereditary Motor Neuropathy (dHMN) cause dysfunction in nerves of the peripheral nervous system. Our studies aim to facilitate development of strategies for disease intervention through new effective drug therapies by determining the structure of Hsp27 in complex with its client proteins.  We are also looking into the role of hsp27 in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and how hsp27 may affect the formation of toxic oligomers and abnormal intracellular aggregates of tau and alpha-synuclin proteins.


The mtHsp60 D29G and V98I missense mutations have shown direct correlation to hereditary spastic paraplegia type 13 (SPG13) and mitochondrial Hsp60 chaperonopathy (MitCHAP-60). We study various mtHsp60 protein folding intermediates with a focus on the disease-causing point mutations, D29G and V98I, leading to possible treatments.  


Congratulations to Daniel Von Salzen for 1st place award at the Texas Academy of Science 2023 Graduate Student Oral Competition!

Congratulations to Sofia Ronquillo for 2nd place poster award in cell and molecular biology at the Texas Academy of Science 2023!

MORE Congratulations to Sofia Ronquillo for graduating in May 2023 as a TOP TEN SENIOR!!


Publications, Links and



Publication Listing in Google Scholar, click here.


Cryo-EM Facility


Texas Academy of Science UTEP Local Student Chapter


SDS (MSDS) online database

Lab Members

Current Lab Members include; Kelly Aguirre, Laura Sanchez, Fernando Chavira , Ramon Sanchez, Andrea Gonzalez, and  Ricardo Bernal


Former Lab Members include; Daniel Von Salzen (PhD), Samantha Garcia (now a PhD student at UC Berkeley), Denisse Orozco (UG @UACJ), Alejandro Rodriguez (PhD @ local Start Up), Bianka Holguin (PhD @ local Start Up), Zac Hildenbrand (Research Professor at UTEP), Sudheer Molugu (now cryo-EM facility Manager at University of Pennsylvania), Nadia Herrera (PhD @ Caltech and postdoc at UCSF), Tim Brown (now an MD/PhD), Adrian Enriquez (now postdoc at Scripps-La Hoya), Jinliang Wang (postdoc at Univ. of Utah and currently a postdoc at USC), Karen Orta (PhD student at Caltech), Maria Grajeda (Postbac at Johns Hopkins & Currently at UT Southwestern Medical School), Andres Orta (PhD student at Caltech), Jesus Garcia (Roche Tissue Diagnostics), Diana Tafoya (Ph.D. Vanderbilt now working in Austin Texas), and many others.



All highly motivated individuals interested in structural biology are welcome to apply. Skills in molecular biology and familiarity with Linux are helpful but not a prerequisite. If interested in joining our lab, contact Ricardo Bernal to inquire about any open positions.


Copyright 2023, Ricardo A. Bernal, All Rights Reserved.