Sport Biological Research

How does exercise affect the muscles? And how do athletes and patients organize their physical training to achieve maximum benefit? These are some of the big questions we are working on at the research unit for the Biology of Sport.

 

The research concentrates on five different areas that require very different skills, with a broad focus on both sport, clinical aspects, and basic research. Our core competences are planning, conducting, and assessing intervention programmes for physical training. Furthermore, we have great expertise in basic research, since most of our studies focus on a variety of biochemical, physiological, molecular-biology, and biomechanical methods to determine how the muscles and the circulatory system work.

One key area is research on physical training and optimizing athletic performances in the world of sports. The clinical aspects also relate to physical activity as a means to improve health – including physical activity aimed at reinforcing treatment and/or rehabilitation. Our basic research investigates muscle function and adaptation to activity and inactivity in terms of physiology, molecular biology, and biomechanics.

 

Principal investigator in a Nordic multi-centre study

In most projects we work with researchers outside our own unit, which has a wideranging and well-established network of numerous external partners. These include universities and university hospitals, notable examples being Aarhus University Hospital, the AU Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, and the AU Department of Biomedicine, as well as research institutions in Norway, the United States, and Australia.

Currently the research unit is acting as principal investigator for a large Nordic multi-centre study of multiple-sclerosis patients undergoing a long-term physical training intervention. The study includes Norway, Sweden, and Finland and is being conducted in collaboration with a major pharmaceutical company.

 

Projects

  • Effects of acidification and increased extracellular potassium on dynamic muscle contractions in isolated rat muscles. We are working with the Department of Biomedicine on multiple projects concerning the role that muscle ion balance plays for muscle fatigue during high-intensity dynamic work. Our collaborative results include a series of articles on the significance of potassium and hydrogen ions for muscle fatigue. It was previously believed that acidification with lactic acid was a significant cause of fatigue. These studies suggest, however, that in situations where muscle function is inhibited by increased levels of extracellular potassium, acidification can partially protect muscle from fatigue. This has led us to theorize that the formation of lactic acid during hard work has a primarily positive effect on muscle function during dynamic contractions.
  • Fatigue, mood and quality of life improve in MS patients after progressive resistance training. This study demonstrates the importance of physical training (resistance training) for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS): It augments their muscle strength and functional  capabilities and reduces fatigue, even while improving general mood and quality of life. The study’s findings therefore controvert the long-standing practice of advising MS patients to avoid physical training. The study was done in close collaboration with neurologists at Aarhus University Hospital and with the Danish Multiple Sclerosis Society.
  • Differentiated mTOR but not AMPK signaling after strength vs endurance exercise in training-accustomed individuals. The biological processes taking place in the muscle cell at a molecular level have come strongly into focus as we seek to understand how different types of physical activity, and inactivity, can affect health and/or physical performance. This particular study exemplifies how only one training session can serve as a solid predictor for how, by virtue of its biological regulation mechanisms, the muscle is capable of adapting to changes in the physical activity level. This, in its turn, can help us to understand how beneficial development of functional muscle adaptations can best be promoted through prolonged physical activity.

Milestones

Effects of acidification and increased extracellular potassium on dynamic muscle contractions in isolated rat muscles (Overgaard K et al. J Physiol. 2010 Dec 15;588).

Fatigue, mood and quality of life improve in MS patients after progressive resistance training (Dalgas U et al. Mult Scler. 2010 Apr;16(4):480-90).

Differentiated mTOR but not AMPK signaling after strength vs endurance exercise in training-accustomed individuals.(Vissing K et al. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2011).

Methods

Our competence spans the entire process of planning, carrying out, and assessing intervention programmes for physical training.

  • Intervention programmes
  • Physical testing of muscle function, circulation, and other health parameters
  • In vitro models with isolated muscle groups
  • Human muscle biopsies and blood sampling
  • Biochemical and physiological measurements of blood and muscle tissue
  • Molecular biology measurements of muscle tissue using real-time PCR, Western blot and other techniques
  • Biomechanical methods using force platform, high speed camera, and inverse dynamics