LSU's Pennington Biomedical Awarded $5.28 Million from NIH to Study the Molecular Effects of Exercise

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Released: Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Baton Rouge, LA - LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center has been awarded $5.28 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the benefits of exercise on health, specifically the molecular mechanisms behind these benefits. The Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans (MoTrPAC) program aims to understand the molecular mechanisms of how physical activity improves health and prevents disease.

The award is part of the largest-ever targeted NIH investment into better understanding the benefits of physical activity. With data gained from the study, the NIH plans to develop a comprehensive map of the molecular changes that occur in exercise in response to physical activity.

"Although previous research has already extensively shown how exercise benefits human health, little is known about the molecules-and therefore the mechanisms-that trigger these improvements. If we can get a better understanding of exactly what is going on at the molecular level during physical activity, we hope to be better equipped to understand why some people benefit more or less from exercise and to develop future treatment targets to help people reap the maximum benefits from physical activity," said Dr. Eric Ravussin. He and Dr. Tuomo Rankinen at Pennington Biomedical are investigators on the study.

Pennington Biomedical is one of six clinical centers across the country that will recruit healthy, inactive adults for this exercise study beginning in 2018. During the study, participants will be assigned to one of three groups: an aerobic exercise group, a resistance training group and a control group. Additionally, athletes will be enrolled to compete in endurance and strength sports to serve as an active control group.

During the course of the 12-week study, scientists will analyze a variety of molecules and how they change following training and acute exercise. This data will help scientists assemble a comprehensive map of the proteins, peptides, circulating nucleic acids, lipids, hormones and other molecules that change during or after exercise-all of which scientists believe are probably "molecular transducers" or physical activity's health benefit.

"The invaluable information we gather by collaborating on this research would ultimately translate to health care providers around the world having the ability and knowledge to provide targeted exercise recommendations based on a person's health needs and stage in life," said Dr. Will Cefalu, executive director of Pennington Biomedical.

To learn more about participating in a research study at Pennington Biomedical, visit or call 225-763-3000.

MoTrPAC is a national research consortium designed to discover and perform preliminary characterization of the range of molecular transducers (the ‘molecular map') that underlie the effects of physical activity in humans. MoTrPAC is supported by the NIH Common Fund and managed by a trans-agency Working Group representing multiple NIH Institutes and Centers, led by the NIH Office of Strategic Coordination, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Institute on Aging (NIA), and National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB).

The NIH Common Fund brings together scientists from diverse fields, encourages collaboration and supports a series of exceptionally high-impact, trans-NIH programs. Common Fund programs are designed to pursue major opportunities and gaps in biomedical research that no single NIH institute could tackle alone, but that the agency as a whole can address to make the biggest impact possible on the progress of medical research. Additional information about the NIH Common Fund can be found at More information on the MoTrPAC program can be found at


The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 44 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.