San Antonio part of NIH study to gain molecular insights into how exercise benefits the body

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The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the UT Medical Branch at Galveston are teaming up to study how exercise changes the body at the molecular level. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today (Dec. 13) announced grants to fund the Texas team and other groups nationwide.

The Health Science Center-UTMB award from NIH is $4.5 million over the next six years, with additional support for the Health Science Center and UTMB to provide core services needed for all research programs. The grants are the first from the NIH Common Fund for its Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans Consortium (MoTrPAC).

“We have long understood that exercising is beneficial to our overall health, but don’t fully understand the impact of exercise at the molecular level,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “The development of a so-called molecular map of circulating signals produced by physical activity will allow us to discover, at a fundamental level, how physical activity affects our health. This knowledge should allow researchers and doctors to develop individually targeted exercise recommendations and better help those who are unable to exercise.”

A team led by Nicolas Musi, M.D., of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and Blake Rasmussen, Ph.D., at the UT Medical Branch at Galveston, is one of six groups that will recruit healthy adults for an exercise study. The investigators will collect blood, urine and tissue samples from active and sedentary volunteers who will perform resistance or aerobic exercises. These samples will be shared with colleagues at MoTrPAC Chemical Analysis Sites, who will extensively characterize a variety of molecules that change following exercise and may mediate the effects of physical activity.

“Previous research by my laboratory has centered on the effects of exercise on the mitochondria, which function as the power plants of the cells,” said Dr. Musi, professor in the UT Health Science Center School of Medicine and director of the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies. “Exercise increases the size and number of the mitochondria. Information gleaned from this new study funded by NIH will further enhance our understanding of the physiological benefits of exercise.”

Dr. Musi also directs the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) in the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.

MoTrPAC awardees will work as a consortium to develop plans for recruitment into clinical trials, identification of methods to analyze tissue samples, and selection of animal models to best replicate human studies. The animal models will allow research to search for changes in tissues not easily accessible in human patients, such as the brain, lungs and kidneys.

Learn more about the MoTrPAC program in this video interview from Dr. Collins.

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