Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity (MoTrPac) Update

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Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity (MoTrPac) Update

John Quindry, Ph.D., FACSM |  Sept. 12, 2018

This is part four of a series of blogs from attendees at ACSM's Conference on Integrative Physiology of Exercise. The following blog is a reflection on the update regarding the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity investigation by John Quindry, Ph.D., FACSM. 

In case you missed the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity (MoTrPac) update at ACSM’s Conference on Integrative Physiology of Exercise (IPE) meeting in San Diego, here’s what you need to know:

Presenters were Marcas Bamman, Ph.D., FACSM, and Karyn Esser, Ph.D., FACSM, two principle investigators in the massive $170 million multi-site investigation. Funded by the NIH Common Fund, both human and animal research will be conducted over the next several years.

The primary points of the IPE update were to convey the phase one timeline and final methodologies determined by the MoTrPac steering committee (the investigators and outside consultants). Dr. Bamman provided updates on the human models (2,600 research volunteers), while Dr. Esser detailed the animal arms (many hundreds of Fisher 344 rats, 19 organs sampled post mortem). I encourage you to check out the particulars for yourself.

Another key point of the update was to share that, in the coming years, outside investigators can petition for tissue access in a grant-specific way. There is no doubt that the outcome of this work will set the stage for the next generation of mechanistic understanding of exercise and physical activity on total body health. In question, however, is whether the respective human and animal study designs will be robust enough to flush out all the potential new leads. The answer is probably not. By virtue of scale, Drs. Bamman and Esser conveyed that this research phase is the best overall study design, but a compromise to say the least. During the Q&A, many top scientists within our ranks raised key points of concern, all of which were conceded by the presenters.

We’re taught in first semester graduate school that no study design is an “end all,” and MoTrPac is no exception. People may find this alarming given the $170 million price tag, but it is worth noting that this investment in preventative exercise has been long coming and is a fraction of a percent of past expenditures directed to curative medicine. I happened to be on the NIH ad hoc review of the original MoTrPac submissions, and we debated many of these same points in the room and wondered more among ourselves quietly in smaller groups during the down time. Having managed my own grant budgets for years, I’m still amazed that $170 million is just as finite a sum as the grant totals for other studies. I trust that the outcomes are going to be revealing and that the next generation scientists in the field will leverage these findings into **BILLION** dollar follow-up studies and even more impactful future discoveries.  

Read part 1 of this series: "Can Exercise Fill the Reductionist Gap? Reflections on Dr. Michael Joyner's Keynote."
Read part 2 of this series: "Are Exercise 'Mimetics' a Realistic Substitute for Exercise Training? Reflections on the Debate." 
Read part 3 of this series: "Exercise and Energy Restriction to Improve Health: Recent Research." 

John Quindry, Ph.D., FACSM, is a member of the faculty at the University of Montana, Department of Health and Human Performance. He served as a co-planner of ACSM's Conference on Integrative Physiology of Exercise.