muscle-fiber-scientists

Help Us Support Muscle Performance Research!
Written by Invictus Member Irene Tobias

Having recently escaped grad school this past spring armed with my PhD, I have started new work as a post-doctoral researcher in the lab of Dr. Andy Galpin at Cal State Fullerton. I became familiar with Dr. Galpin’s work through listening to his awesome commentary on the most excellent podcast, Barbell Shrugged. When I looked further into his research, I realized that his methods for studying muscle at the cellular and molecular scales fit perfectly with all the experience I’d gained at grad school in biochemistry! After contacting him and visiting his lab over the summer, we both realized that I was a perfect fit to join his team, and this was an amazing opportunity for me to combine my professional biochemistry expertise acquired at UCSD with my personal passion for fitness and human performance that I discovered here at Invictus.

Andy is one of the most dynamic, open-minded, charismatic, broadly versed, and passionately motivated professors I have ever encountered throughout my time as a student at MIT, University of Cambridge and UCSD. As a young professor, he has an adept skill for harnessing the power of social media, podcasts and other means of modern communication in addition to a natural talent for conveying science effectively to the public, significant traits that are substantially lacking among most academic scientists these days. With a broad range of knowledge and application across muscle physiology, strength and conditioning, and molecular biochemistry, he is well suited to lead our team of scientists as we embark on exciting new research adventures.

The Focus of our Research
We are performing research on muscle that examines data of all levels from the molecular (DNA, RNA, proteins) through the cellular (organelles or mini organs within the cell) up to the physiological (one rep maxes and force plate outputs!) from humans to investigate performance questions. Such as questions on training regimens, recovery capabilities, and metabolic adaptations in a whole range of individuals from sedentary science grad students all the way through elite athlete populations including MMA fighters, CrossFit Games athletes and Olympic weightlifters. These populations are particularly interesting as studies on human muscle have really only examined endurance-trained athletes thus far and have not really delved into questions of anaerobic capacity, power athletes or the well-rounded abilities of fighters and CrossFitters in marrying both strength and endurance together. Muscle cells (or fibers) are particularly unique to study as they are the largest cells in our bodies (you can even see them with your naked eye!) and they can be extracted via minimally invasive biopsy without harming an individual or injuring their performance. Believe me, this is a very rare find in the life science field- the opportunity to study tissue at the single cell level from real live humans.

Supporting our Research through Crowdfunding
Now coming to the important part: We need you! We have just launched a grant proposal through an innovative new crowdfunding site for scientific research- Experiment.com. This specific proposal is focused on investigating how muscle myonuclei (control centers of the cell) regulate growth and recovery in fast vs slow twitch muscle fibers which will help us understand why some people grow or lose muscle faster, recover faster, and why some training programs are more effective than others in modulating these endeavors. Andy is the only investigator uniquely set up to lead this research given his expertise in muscle physiology, his capabilities for performing muscle biopsies on human subjects, and his broad range of connections with elite athletes and training centers. Our collaborator at Cal State San Francisco (Dr. Jimmy Bagley) has expertise in 3D imaging of muscle fibers using novel confocal microscopy methods, but needs one last segment of funds for parts to finish building his microscope.

Our unique research falls into an area of life science that is very difficult to fund using conventional government-sponsored entities such as the NIH, which tends to focus funding solely on specific diseases. Very little attention is directed towards studying the opposite side of the health spectrum from disease, that of human performance. We as scientists think there is much to be learned from studying performance physiology that could expand our knowledge of the human condition and perhaps one day provide more help to individuals who are sick or disabled. In addition, knowledge from this research will also aid in our understanding of how to help astronauts overcome the physiological challenges of low-gravity environments, essential problems that need to be solved before we can send humans to Mars. Indeed, our grant has also been endorsed by the lead strength and conditioning coach at NASA!

crowdfunding-vs-conventional-funding

Help from the Sea of Green
If you are also frustrated by the current model of science funding through limited sources with inherent biases, please join us and make a donation on our grant site (any amount will help!) and spread the word among your friends and family and through social media. This platform provides a free-market, public-powered solution to science funding and allows us to connect with a widespread community of individuals who are interested in fitness, performance, athletes, and their applications to health.

As I’ve written on this blog before, I am so incredibly thankful for all the support I’ve received from Invictus over the years, especially towards completing my PhD. Now I get to use that and apply it to an area of science that speaks directly to all our interests and goals! Once again, I’d like to invoke the magical power of the Sea of Green and the online Invictus community to help us in funding and promoting this research. We’ve got some other exciting ideas for future studies on molecular adaptations from intense training in athletes brewing as well, so stay tuned for that. And in the words of Mark Watney: “We’re going to science the sh&*t out of this!”

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