The NIH Common Fund has launched a program aimed at studying biological molecules affected by physical activity, according to an NIH news release.
The program, called Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans, is the largest targeted NIH investment of funds into the mechanism of how physical activity improves health and prevents disease, the news release stated. Investigators will receive $170 million over five years, pending availability of funds.
Highlights of the program, according to the NIH website, include:
• Clinical sites that will implement physical activity protocols, perform physiological and metabolic assessments of participants, and collect appropriate data and biospecimens;
• Chemical analysis sites that will characterize human and animal tissues using high-throughput discovery approaches with appropriate quality controls and perform initial statistical analyses of datasets;
• Animal studies which will help identify target tissues for signaling molecules and help delineate their function in mediating the effects of physical activity; and
• A data management and coordinating center that will oversee projects, store and analyze data, and coordinate the distribution of specimens.
“This program will lay the foundation for our understanding of how physical activity affects the human body, and ultimately, advance our understanding of how activity improves and preserves health,” NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, said in the release. “Armed with this knowledge, researchers and clinicians may one day be able to define optimal physical activity recommendations for people at various stages of life, as well as develop precisely targeted regimens for individuals with particular health needs.”
Participants will engage in various kinds of physical activity and researchers will identify the biological molecules that change in response to the exercises. Complementary studies will be conducted on animals to provide additional insights into molecular transducer function.
Participants will vary in age, fitness level, race and ethnicity, and groups will be equally distributed between male and female. Active and sedentary volunteers will perform resistance or aerobic exercises. Researchers will collect blood, urine and tissue samples at several time points after activity and then extensively analyze the samples using high-throughput technologies to identify many different biological molecules from large numbers of samples.
In addition to the human studies, investigators will conduct comparable studies in animals to gather information about critical tissues affected by exercise that are not easily studied in humans, such as lung, liver, brain, kidney and heart.
“By capitalizing on recent technological breakthroughs in complex, high-throughput sample analysis, this program will enable a novel understanding of how physical activity contributes to a person’s health at a molecular level,” James M. Anderson, MD, PhD, director of the NIH Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, which houses the Common Fund, said in the release.
“The knowledge generated through this program will inform studies of almost every organ and tissue in the human body, and will provide a critical resource for large numbers of researchers investigating the effects of physical activity in humans.”
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