Kim Huey, associate professor of health sciences, was recently awarded a multiyear a grant totaling $414,990 to study factors involved in muscle growth. This research could ultimately have a positive impact on maintaining and improving muscle function in individuals with muscle weakness, thereby improving quality of life and reducing long-term medical costs.
The project was awarded with support from The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Huey worked with Drake’s Sponsored Programs Administration to secure the grant.
Dr. Huey’s studies will examine the importance of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) during muscle growth. VEGF is well known to stimulate capillary growth in several tissues including skeletal muscle, but its specific role during muscle hypertrophy (increase in muscle size) is less clear.
“As we age or as a side effect of some chronic diseases, muscle atrophy is a problem,” Dr. Huey says. “We are investigating cellular processes during muscle hypertrophy and whether VEGF is important during this growth.”
If scientists such as Dr. Huey can determine factors that stimulate muscle growth, they can work to develop pharmacologic or exercise-based interventions to improve muscle strength and function.
These kinds of breakthroughs are especially important, given the aging demographics of the Baby Boomer population. Decreases in muscle strength limit mobility and increase susceptibility to injury, thus it is important to develop strategies to ameliorate the well-known declines in muscle function that occur with injury, disease and/or aging.
Although the final outcomes of this project are years away, this grant provides immediate impact by funding five undergraduate research positions in Drake’s muscle physiology lab. This will help strengthen the research mission of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and enhance the University’s commitment to interdisciplinary education and research.
“The awarding of this grant is a significant accomplishment and a testament to Dr. Huey’s research skills and record of accomplishments,” says Bob Soltis, chair of pharmacy science at Drake University. “With funding of NIH grants below 15 percent, Dr. Huey’s work is considered not only meritorious but also a priority in biomedical research. It’s great that our national peers in research have recognized that Drake faculty and students are capable of carrying out a high standard of research.”