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Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine receives prestigious $2.4 million NIH grant to examine skeletal muscle performance and metabolism

The National Institute of Health (NIH) recently awarded Heritage College researchers a grant for over $2.4 million. This R01 grant will fuel groundbreaking research aimed at unraveling the processes influencing skeletal muscle performance and metabolism. The project is led by Vishwajeet Puri, Ph.D., Osteopathic Heritage Foundation Ralph S. Licklider, D.O. Endowed Professor in Diabetes, alongside co-investigators Leslie Consitt, Ph.D., OHF Ralph S. Licklider, D.O., Endowed Faculty Fellow in Enhanced Metabolic Aging; Kevin Lee, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical science; and Cory Baumann, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical sciences.

"This grant marks a monumental step towards understanding the molecular mechanisms affecting skeletal muscle performance and its impact on metabolic diseases," Puri said. “It’s also a testament to the power of collaboration at Heritage College, as investigators from both the Diabetes Institute and the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute are coming together on the project.” 

Because skeletal muscle serves as a critical player regulating blood sugar and metabolism, the findings from this study have far-reaching implications for human health. Successful completion of this study is expected to reveal a new regulatory mechanism in muscle biology that may potentially uncover targets for treatment and prevention strategies for diabetes and other conditions related to metabolic disorders. Given that diabetes disproportionately affects southeastern Ohio, these findings may play a critical role in improving public health in the region.

“Heritage College is committed to advancing research excellence and innovation in the field of metabolic disease,” said Darlene Berryman, Ph.D., associate dean for research and innovation at the Heritage College. "This grant not only highlights our faculty's excellence but also strengthens our position at the forefront of metabolic disease research."

Researchers will be combining their expertise in lipid metabolism, muscle metabolism, muscle physiology and insulin signaling. Additionally, senior fellow Bijinu Balakrishnan, Ph.D.; students Rabia Basri and Chloe Becker; and second-year medical student Ishika Puri worked with the research team to generate preliminary data for this project.

The primary focus of the study is understanding the relationship between Fat Specific Protein 27 (FSP27) and skeletal muscle function, particularly in the context of metabolic diseases such as obesity and insulin resistance. To investigate how FSP27 influences these conditions, researchers will examine three main areas: physiological action, fat handling, and exercise endurance and insulin sensitivity.

June 6, 2024
Staff reports