Ball State: New Clinical Trials Examine How Exercise Helps Us Down to Our Molecules


Todd Trappe (left) and Scott Trappe (right) work on a research project at Ball State’s Human Performance Laboratory.

Ball State University will partner with two other major research institutions as part of a national project to uncover how exercise changes the body on a molecular level, which could lead to people engaging in more targeted and optimized activities.

Ball State’s Human Performance Laboratory (HPL) will form one clinical trial site with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Center for Exercise Medicine and the Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes in Orlando, Florida. Their work is part of the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans program (MoTrPac), which will be financed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund.

The three partners will share a projected $6.6 million over six years, 2017-23, as part of a $170 million NIH investment for the largest, most complex and highly coordinated human exercise physiology training study in the field’s history.

“The NIH initiative is a moonshot opportunity for the exercise community, and the Human Performance Laboratory is honored to be part of the team,” said Scott Trappe, the John and Janice Fisher Endowed Chair of Exercise Science and director of the Human Performance Laboratory in Ball State’s newly formed College of Health. “This is a new frontier that will move the field forward to better understand the health benefits of exercise.”

Under the $170 million project, 19 grants will support researchers working around the country, including seven clinical trial sites and several analytical sites to collect samples from people of different races, ethnic groups, sex, ages and fitness levels.

“We have long understood that exercising is beneficial to our overall health; however, we still do not understand why,” NIH director Francis S. 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.

Under the national research initiative, researchers will partner to develop plans to recruit people for clinical trials, identify how to analyze tissue samples and select animal models to best replicate human studies.

Investigators across the country will recruit a total of about 3,000 healthy men and women of different fitness levels, ages, races and ethnicities. Each clinical site will enroll and study 450 to 500 participants. Researchers will collect blood, urine and tissue samples from the volunteers, who will perform resistance or aerobic exercises as part of the national study.

During the first year, clinical site teams will finalize plans and responsibilities. Trappe said HPL will quickly ramp up operations, including adding more researchers and post-doctoral students, to begin work in 2017. He will be a co-director of the test site; Todd Trappe, a Ball State exercise science professor, will be a co-principal investigator for the site.

Toby Chambers, a first-year doctoral student in Ball State’s human bioenergetics program, believes the NIH project underscores the national reputations Ball State and HPL have developed.

“As a doctoral student in the Human Performance Laboratory, I am really excited about the learning opportunities that will result from the research team’s involvement,” he said. “The unique opportunities this presents to the research team are why individuals, like myself, continue to be attracted to the HPL at Ball State.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *