16 Sep 2009 12:21:00.000
Experts at The University of Nottingham are working on ground-breaking research to determine, for the first time, precisely what damage obesity can inflict on the muscles in our body.
It is hoped their research, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), will lead to more effective treatment strategies for the obese to minimise muscle complications.
Professor Paul Greenhaff in the School of Biomedical Sciences along with Professor Michael Rennie in the School of Graduate Entry Medicine and Health has been awarded nearly £600,000 to carry out the research. Professor Greenhaff said: “This work is essential because it will further our understanding of the health consequences of obesity which is all the more important given the purported obesity epidemic threatening to face the western world in future years.”
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Based in the School of Biomedical Sciences, Professor Greenhaff and his team have already shown the release of cytokines — small inflammatory-inducing proteins — to coincide with molecular events that slow down the skeletal muscle making process and speed up the rate of muscle breakdown. Cytokines, released from the fat cells of the body, are elevated in obese individuals at low levels for long periods of time and the researches will be investigating what consequences this has on muscle.
Skeletal muscle plays an essential role in our daily lives — it helps us move, control our posture, and acts as an important fuel source when we become ill. Despite the increasing incidence of obesity and the potential loss of muscle function, the effect of low level and persistent inflammation — induced by obesity — remains largely unknown. Furthermore, the potential negative effects of obesity —induced inflammation on muscle processes — may become even more pronounced as we age due to the natural loss of muscle mass in later years.
Researchers are recruiting a group of obese and healthy normal-weight volunteers. Scientists will measure the rates of synthesis and breakdown of muscle proteins in conjunction with rates of carbohydrate oxidation in obese individuals and compare them to rates determined in healthy non-obese volunteers and see how they differ. Muscle biopsies will be taken to examine the molecular signalling events that underpin these processes.
The researchers also want to know if an insulin sensitising drug, known to limit the release of cytokines from fat cells, can reverse any effect of obesity on the synthesis and breakdown of muscle proteins and whether this could lead to functional improvements. These studies will determine, for the first time, the effect of obesity associated low-dose chronic inflammation on essential muscle events.
Professor Greenhaff said: “Despite the serious implications, there is a dearth of information on this topic. Our research is of such magnitude that if we can find the answers, it will create a multitude of future research avenues that could be explored by the wider scientific community. This could have wide-reaching implications for the many disease states characterised by low-grade chronic inflammation.”
If you are male, aged over 55 years of age, and are interested in participating as a volunteer, please contact Dr Andrew Murton on +44 (0115) 823 0578, firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
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Notes to editors:
The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.
The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.