In addition to its obvious role in human movement, skeletal muscle is the largest disposal site for blood glucose and is a major contributor to the basal metabolic rate, which positions it as a vital tissue in the battle against the growing epidemic of metabolic disease (e.g. Type II diabetes, obesity) that currently threatens the lives of Canadians of all ages.
Both physical (in)activity and nutrition can alter the quantity and quality of lean mass (which includes bone, organs, and muscle).
Ultimately, the ability to change what new proteins are made (synthesized) and what old proteins are broken down (collectively referred to as ‘protein turnover’) is at the core of the human body’s amazing ability to adapt to different forms of exercise; the ability to measure this process is vital to develop exercise and/or nutritional best practices to enhance skeletal muscle and lean body mass across the lifespan.
With this in mind, the overarching aim of my research is to advance our understanding of how skeletal muscle remodels in response to both exercise and nutrition spanning basic research understanding of molecular biology up to whole tissues and organisms.
Areas of Research Focus
My research program has three major thrusts aimed at elucidating the nutritional and/or exercise best practices to enhance lean body and muscle mass and quality across the lifespan.
In contrast to research in adults, we know arguably little about the nutritional requirements of active children, especially with respect to the macronutrient that provides the building blocks for growth: dietary protein.
This research stream utilizes novel whole body tracer methodologies to determine how dietary protein and amino acid ingestion enhances protein turnover and net protein balance (i.e. an acute surrogate marker of “growth”) in active children and adolescents.
This will ultimately help ‘bridge the knowledge gap’ with that of adults and guide nutrition best practices for optimizing lean mass growth.
This research stream will also identify how (in)activity can alter protein metabolism and lean mass development during the critical growth and development years of childhood and adolescence.
Common to all types of exercise and training is the importance of optimal post-exercise nutrition (i.e. protein ingestion) to ‘kick start’ the recovery process and that will, over time, lead to the development of muscles that are bigger/stronger and/or more fatigue-resistant.
In addition to identifying the optimal macronutrient intakes of athletic populations and the impact targeted nutrition strategies (e.g. nutrient timing and/or bioactive ingredients) have on the recovery from and adaptation to exercise spanning sports performance to ideal body composition, this research stream will be aided by the utilization of stable isotopes to determine the synthesis of specific muscle protein subfractions (e.g. force-generating myofibrillar proteins) over hours to days.
Advancing our knowledge of the mechanisms governing skeletal muscle remodeling in response to exercise or inactivity is essential for the future design of optimal therapeutic strategies (e.g. physical, neutraceutical, pharmacological).
This research aims to enhance our understanding by combining kinetic measures of muscle protein synthesis with molecular markers of protein regulation (e.g. changes in gene and/or protein expression) and characterization of muscle-specific stem cells (i.e. satellite cells).
Dr. Daniel West, Dr. Jenna Gillen
Micheal Mazzulla, Sidney Abou Sawan, Eric Williamson, Marcus Waskiw-Ford
Sarkis Hannaian, Julia Malowany, Hugo Fung