Center for Muscle Biology at the University of Kentucky

Uploaded by universityofkentucky on 11.12.2012

Mike Reid: So skeletal muscle is your largest internal organ. It represents one-third to
one-half of your body weight. If that organ doesn’t function properly you’re guaranteed
to be ill and you may be dead. Understanding how that organ works is important because
at present we have almost no treatments for muscle wasting or for muscle weakness. Nothing
to preserve that organ. That’s the reason that we have the center and that’s the reason
we do the work we do.
Karyn Esser: we were in a unique situation in which we had a strong cluster of senior
investigators in the field of muscle biology… we saw an opportunity to create a unique research
strength that would set Kentucky apart from a lot other research institutions across the
VO: Researchers from 30 departments in 9 colleges have joined together to study muscle weakness
through the Center for Muscle Biology at the University of Kentucky. Center investigators
study weakness and dysfunction in skeletal and heart muscle which applies to normal aging,
and in chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and rheumatoid
Mike Reid: In all of these conditions, muscle weakness is a problem that plagues many patients…if
they have muscle weakness, they’re much sicker than if they don’t. And it can predispose
people, it can set people up, for premature death.
Karyn Esser: This is an important thing. We have some animal studies out there now because
of the way we can go and genetically modify tissues in a very specific manner, where they
have rescued aspects of muscle in an animal that has disease. Those animals live longer.
With our focus on weakness and its contribution to chronic disease, morbidity, mortality,
we are in a unique position to be a national leader in this area.
VO: Center projects range from basic science to clinical studies to running clinics. On
the basic science side, Charlotte Peterson’s team is looking at satellite cells.
Charlotte Peterson: So satellite cells are actually the stem cells in muscle…every
adult organ has stem cells, which are really important for regeneration and maintenance
of the tissue. And in muscle, they’re the satellite cells, which is why your muscle
is so plastic, as we call it. It can grow enormously. You can damage it, it can regenerate
itself and this is because of these really robust stem cells that are present in the
If you decide you do want to grow your muscles, do the stem cells actually participate in
that? Because if they do, then they are a good therapeutic target if for example in
aging and your muscles are wasting, is a viable therapeutic approach to introduce stem cells
or not? And we really don’t know that right now. During the normal maintenance of muscle,
during regrowth after atrophy, for example, bed rest or something, can the stem cells
be mobilized to help with that process, is that really one of their functions?
VO: Utilizing UK’s expertise in obesity and heart disease, Brandon Fornwalt is using
imaging to reveal changes in heart muscle in children with obesity.
Brandon Fornwalt: We had a pediatric obesity clinic here with over 800 kids with obesity…And
I realized we have this new, 7-tesla, $3 million dollar MRI which we could use to image mouse
models of obesity… We feed the mice a high fat diet and we watch what happens to their
heart over time and they get big changes in their hearts. Their hearts start to thicken,
they start to not contract as well…So one of the things I’m doing now is using this
new imaging technology to look at the function of the heart in mouse models of obesity and
then we’re also doing the same imaging in the kids that are coming into the pediatric
obesity clinic…amazingly enough, by the ages of nine, ten years old, you’re already
seeing changes in the heart in children, and we have no idea what the long-term complications
of that are.
VO: Athletic trainer Tim Butterfield’s team is measuring the effect of massage on muscle,
by building devices and studying changes at the cellular level.
Tim Butterfield: I think it’s important to measure scientifically because everybody
wants a massage and people spend a lot of money on massage and people also spend a lot
of money on pharmacological interventions when people have pain. And if there is something
that will help muscle adapt and heal and become better at performing its function that is
less expensive, and easier to apply, then I think it’s worth investigating.
Chris Waters Banker: it allows us the opportunity to not only look just at how much force we’re
applying to the muscle but allows us to even evaluate that, what type of force is too much,
what’s too little, what’s the optimal force to be applied, to get the response that
we’re looking for.
Tim Butterfield: If we can control all of those variables, and then pull out the cells
and see how they respond, we have a better idea of what caused that cell to respond that
Chris Waters Banker: If we know the mechanism underlying what is happening at the cellular
level, we can better tailor our treatments.
VO: Physical therapist Brian Noehren’s team is improving rehab for athletes recovering
from knee surgery to repair torn ligaments, by creating 3D models.
Brian Noehren: One of the big implications of having an ACL reconstruction, is that within
10-15 years, those individuals, at least 75% of them, will go on to develop osteoarthritis.
You can imagine if you tear your ACL at the age of 20, by the age of 35, you might have
the knee of somebody who’s, for example, 65 years old. And it has a number of long-term
health implications.
So we put these little retroflective markers on various locations throughout their legs
and ultimately what we’re able to do is build a three-dimensional representation of
that individual and we’ve written our own computer code to be able to extract data from
You can come in and have just your running form or your walking form evaluated and we
can give you feedback on how you’re doing, so we’ll compare your mechanics, to somebody
who’s healthy and never had any problems… we spend twice as much time after data collection
talking about what we saw, steps you can maybe take to make some changes, potentially avoid
having an injury at a later date.
Charlotte Peterson: Being able to have physiologists, and molecular biologists, engineers, athletic
trainers, physical therapists, all working together, to try to understand and improve
the quality of life for people is really quite a unique situation.
Brian Noehren: I find that innovation really comes at the crossroads of disciplines so
with my background in physical therapy and biomechanics and I have an interest in muscle,
to be able to go to the center and talk to somebody who is an expert in their particular
domain of research. For example, Charlotte Petersen and her work in satellite cells in
muscle and to be able to find those areas of overlap leads to very interesting research
projects and helps us innovate and solve problems that if I were just doing my thing over and
over again we would really wouldn’t be able to get to.
Mike Reid: What our center does is it allows people who are interested in various diseases
to talk to each other to share techniques to share information to share biological insights…we’ll
think more creatively about how to approach a problem.
Karyn Esser: So if I’m a basic scientist, I generally don’t interact with clinicians
and if I’m clinician, I don’t have time to interact with a basic scientist. But if
we’re talking together and we have a shared vision and mission, then we can actually move
the discoveries from the bench to the clinic much faster.