In conjunction with scientists at Wake Forest University and the University of Vermont, Pahor leads the consortium’s coordinating center under a grant totaling $9.4 million. Karyn Esser, Ph.D., associate program director of the UF Institute of Myology, was awarded $2.2 million to lead one of MoTrPAC’s preclinical animal study sites. Other preclinical sites are the University of Iowa and the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. Esser, a professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of physiology and functional genomics, said MoTrPAC animal studies already are far along.
The study is examining the effects of exercise on humans in the short term and over time.
In ongoing animal studies, scientists are examining the impact of exercise on more than 17 organs, including the heart, brain, kidneys and other tissues.
“The idea is that exercise is resulting in a systemic effect,” said Esser. “And these things don’t work in isolation.
These cells and tissues are all talking to each other. This study has the potential to uncover these systemwide beneficial effects.”
Esser said a “tremendous strength” of MoTrPAC is that it combines preclinical animal and human clinical trials. The results from each are equally important and address different scientific questions, she said.
“The early results from the preclinical outcomes emerging now will be really helpful for interpreting some of the human outcomes,” Esser said. “And the human outcomes will inform the preclinical studies.”
Knowing how exercise changes chemical molecules in the body could eventually lead to more targeted types of physical activity and perhaps even pharmaceuticals that might mimic some of the changes exercises brings about in the body.
“The metabolic pathways can perhaps be modulated pharmacologically or hormonally to mimic exercise to produce benefits in people who cannot exercise or don’t want to,” Pahor said.
Eleven clinical sites across the country, 10 for adults and one for those under 18 years old, were recruiting people from diverse racial and ethnic groups until the pandemic hit. They will examine how molecular signals are altered following changes in exercise patterns.
NIH officials, who call the study the largest research program of its kind, noted the large study size is meant to account for person-to-person variation, and to reveal differences based on demographics like age, race and gender.
“MoTrPAC was launched to fill an important gap in exercise research,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “It shifts focus from a specific organ or disease to a fundamental understanding of exercise at the molecular level — an understanding that may lead to personalized, prescribed exercise regimens based on an individual’s needs and traits.”
NIH officials said the data from the study will be made available to researchers worldwide to bring new perspectives to the topic.