MRF Awards for 2002 of
Obesity and Skeletal Muscle
Dr. Guang Sun, Genetics, will use his MRF Award for a project on Global RNA Expression Profiles in Skeletal Muscle in Obese and Non-Obese Young Males Plus their Responses to Acute Overfeeding.
Dr. Sun’s short-term goals entail an experiment involving young adult males, some overweight and some within the normal weight range. With the MRF funding he will study skeletal muscle tissue, which occupies about 50 to 70 per cent of human body weight. “As long as we move we use skeletal muscles, any exercise burns a lot of calories,” he explained. “It is possible that the efficiency of our skeletal muscle to burn fat might be different from person to person, making some people gain weight more easily.”
This year Dr. Sun was also awarded a new three-year grant of over $142,000 per year from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for a comparative expression study on the alteration of global mRNA profiles of human adipose tissue in response to overfeeding in obese and non-obese subjects.
“Both tissues are very important in obesity and although the MRF funding is relatively small, it is important key funding for me. With the MRF funding I may get some very good preliminary data that will help me access further national and international funding agencies.”
Scanning and analyzing the data for different gene expression patterns is expensive, and Dr. Sun anticipates the MRF funding will allow him to analyze between 10 and 15 young males in each group. He expects to have the project done in about a year.
Dr. Sun’s research is aimed at discovering the genetic reasons why overweight people seem to have so much trouble losing the weight, even when they incorporate diet and exercise into their daily lives. Over 50 per cent of Canadians are overweight and about 15 per cent of adults 20 to 64 years of age are obese.
Dr. Sun holds the Novartis Professorship in Pediatric Genetics, sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc.
Modified mice may hold key to high blood pressure
Ten years ago, cardiovascular research was mainly on rats. But around 1990 molecular biologists began to make genetically modified mice. The result was the ideal research tool an animal with a very specific change, perhaps just one deleted gene, could be produced.
One of the problems in using mice is that they are very tiny, about one-tenth the size of rats. Some researchers use a tail cuff to measure mouse blood pressure, but it turns out that mice get extremely upset by the stress of this and become hypertensive just from having the cuff on. Dr. Van Vliet has found the most effective way to measure mouse blood pressure is with tiny internally-inserted telemeters that emit a continuous radio signal.
A recent paper by Dr. Van Vliet, to be published in Physiology, gives possibly the most detailed description ever done of blood pressure in mice. The study pays attention to the effect of locomotor activity on mouse blood pressure, showing that when mice are active their blood pressure goes up and when they are quiet it goes down.
With the help of the MRF funding, Dr. Van Vliet will hire Alison Leonard to work in his lab this summer and then she will start a master’s in the fall looking at the measurement of blood pressure in mice.
Dr. Van Vliet said the MRF funding, although relatively small, allows his lab to diversify. He would like to interest the NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council) in supporting his projects, but to submit an application the project needs to be fairly mature. This is where the MRF funding comes in, enabling his lab to focus specifically on how to phenotype the blood pressure of a mouse.
Dr. Van Vliet noted that other than the Faculty of Medicine’s Medical Research Foundation and Dr. A.R. Cox awards, there are no provincial sources of funding for basic medical research. “There is a tremendous requirement for seed money in research. You need to find funding to be able to follow leads and try new approaches. It takes a lot of funding to come up with a project that will be supported federally.”
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