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  • Researcher puts muscle damage under the microscope

    Author: Karen Keast

A New Zealand post-doctoral researcher will take up a role investigating the progressive muscle-wasting group of diseases, muscular dystrophy, in the United States this month.

Dr Angus Lindsay, previously a lecturer in exercise physiology at the University of Canterbury, will begin working with Associate Professor Dawn Lowe in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis, in a bid to shed light on the molecular mechanisms of contraction-induced injury in dystrophic skeletal muscle.

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“The research aims to identify the contraction-induced injury-related mechanisms, associated with this genetic disease to provide valuable insight in the hope of improving the health and longevity of those people unfortunately living with this debilitating disease,” he said.

The position, funded through a National Institutes of Health grant, comes in the wake of Dr Lindsay’s PhD biochemistry research which examined the links between physical stress, post-exercise recovery interventions and muscle damage in elite athletes.

Dr Lindsay’s work monitored the level of physiological stress and the recovery response of sports athletes including Olympic road and track cyclists, semi-professional body-builders and martial artists along with professional rugby players.

“Ultimately professional athletes are monitored by a team of specialists aimed at improving recovery and maintaining performance all whilst trying to lengthen and maintain their health for career longevity and ultimately success,” he said.

“Typically this process can be achieved through questionnaires, GPS and video analysis and the occasional blood test, however our research utilised a non-invasive approach through urine and saliva analysis to quantify the physiological stress response.”

Dr Lindsay said the non-invasive method resulted in a high participation rate from players and athletes who dislike consistent venipuncture.

“The collection of the urine and saliva before, immediately after and at several time points following the games or competitions allowed for a more sophisticated and individualised approach to athlete monitoring.”

Dr Lindsay said the research opens up a simple, non-invasive approach to monitoring and improving athlete health and team performance.

It may also enable coaches and medical staff to develop an athlete “biological passport” of sorts to provide a monitoring tool specifically tailored for each individual.

“This biochemical monitoring may be able to understand and quantify the level of stress imposed on the athletes following competition and during various training sessions throughout a season to gauge their specific effect without causing over-training,” he said.

Researchers at the Christchurch-based University of Canterbury’s Free Radical Biochemistry Laboratory hope to also apply the analysis to monitoring hospital patients recovering from surgery, such as hip and knee replacements.

“The aim of this work will be to initially identify the level of physiological stress associated with the surgery and how current recovery procedures affect both physical and mental recovery of the patient,” Dr Lindsay said.

“The second aim will be to provide various post-surgical recovery interventions to identify whether these improve recovery time.”

Dr Lindsay said his research and post-doctoral research appointment were made possible thanks to a $27,000 cardiac scholarship from St George’s Hospital and Heart Centre (2003) Ltd and the supervision of Associate Professor Steven Gieseg and University of Derby Professor Nick Draper.


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords