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NIH Funds $170M Consortium to Study Molecular Effects of Physical Activity

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health yesterday named the first grant recipients under its Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans program, which aims to create a comprehensive map of the molecular changes that occur in response to physical activity. 

Through 19 awards, NIH said that it will provide roughly $170 million in funding through fiscal 2022 to various institutes that will comprise the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium (MoTrPAC). These institutions will identify, characterize, and catalogue activity-associated human biological molecules.

"We have long understood that exercising is beneficial to our overall health, but don't fully understand the impact of exercise at the molecular level," NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement. "The development of a so-called molecular map of circulating signals produced by physical activity will allow us to discover, at a fundamental level, how physical activity affects our health. This knowledge should allow researchers and doctors to develop individually targeted exercise recommendations and better help those who are unable to exercise."

The NIH announced its plan to establish the MoTrPAC late last year, calling for applications from research groups interested in handling the program's various activities. Specifically, the agency was seeking clinical centers to recruit and manage volunteers who would provide biospecimens taken before and after episodes of physical activity; Genomics, Epigenomics, and Transcriptomics Chemical Analysis Sites and Metabolomics and Proteomics Chemical Analysis Sites to investigate activity-related biomolecules; a bioinformatics hub; and a coordinating center.

The NIH said that it has now selected seven clinical centers across the US that will recruit 2,700 adults from diverse racial and ethnic groups to provide biosamples beginning in 2018. These centers are led by researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for Exercise Medicine; the Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes; Ball State University Human Performance Laboratory; the University of Pittsburgh; the University of Colorado, Denver; Duke University; East Carolina University; Wake Forest University; the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; and Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. An eighth clinical center led by investigators from the University of California, Irvine will focus on children and adolescent volunteers.

Three preclinical animal study sites have been chosen to conduct animal models of the functions, sources, and target tissues of molecules putatively linked to exercise's health benefits. These will be hosted by the University of California, Davis; the University of Florida; and the Joslin Diabetes Center.

Seven chemical analysis sites were selected for inclusion in the MoTrPAC and will be overseen by scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; the University of Michigan; the Broad Institute/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Duke; Emory University; the Mayo Clinic; the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; and Stanford University.

Stanford will also host the consortium's bioinformatics center, while researchers from the University of Florida, Wake Forest, and the University of Vermont will oversee the coordinating center.

Additional details about the MoTrPAC can be found here.