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The UAB Center for Exercise Medicine is focused on improving the health and well-being of children and adults of all ages through interdisciplinary research, the training of future leaders in science and healthcare, and community education based on clinical research findings. The UCEM interdisciplinary team brings together more than 175 investigators, 32 departments, and 10 schools for a multi-disciplinary approach. UAB is among the first of major academic medical centers to establish such a center. Among its activities, the Center sponsors an annual symposium.  

UCEM Trainee Receives Award for Research

Jamie Holloway, DPT, a current trainee in the Interdisciplinary Training in Pathobiology and Rehabilitation Medicine Program (1T32HD071866) was recently selected by the Foundation for Physical Therapy Board of Trustees to receive a 2016 Promotion of Doctoral Studies (PODS) II Scholarship in the amount of $15,000 for her work entitled “Motor Abilities and Social Participation in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Holloway is the latest of several T32 trainees in the UAB Center for Exercise Medicine who have received individual grants and fellowships while part of the training program. You can read more about their accomplishments below and learn more about the T32 training program here.

T32 Trainee Awards

Jamie Holloway, DPT

Project Title: Motor Abilities and Social Participation in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Award: Promotion of Doctoral Studies (PODS) II Scholarship award in the amount of $15,000 from the Foundation for Physical Therapy
Jamie HollowayAward Period: September 1, 2016-August 31, 2017
Due to high prevalence, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a growing concern in the United States. ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in social communication, atypical patterns of repetitive behaviors, and a variety of sensory-motor, functional, and social difficulties. Children with ASD have been shown to have decreased fine and gross motor skills,
 decreased coordination, difficulties with postural stability and balance, and gait abnormalities.In children who are typically developing, research has demonstrated an association between a child’s level of motor skill development and his or her social abilities, but few research studies have explored this association in children with ASD.Given the evidence of motor impairments in children with ASD and the potential impact on other areas of development, this diagnosis has been identified as an area for physical therapists to utilize their knowledge of movement and participation to help children with ASD.

The specific aim of this project is to explore the relationship between motor skill development and social abilities and participation in children with ASD. The project will consist of three studies which will examine different aspects of the central theme. The knowledge gained from these studies will provide information about the assessment of motor abilities in young children with ASD as well as the role that abnormal motor characteristics plays in this diagnosis, which will help determine the potential impact of motor intervention on participation in children with ASD.

Graham McGinnis, PhDGraham

Project Title: Circadian Influence on protein synthesis and hypertrophic growth of the heart 
Award: American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship
Award Period: January 1, 2016-December 31, 2017  

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death globally and afflicts over 85 million Americans. Risk factors for CVD development include obesity, diabetes, as well as lifestyle factors such as nutrition, physical inactivity, and shift work. Interestingly, a unifying feature among these risk factors is their ability to interfere with normal circadian rhythms and synchrony.  This project is focused on understanding how the heart grows in size, a process called cardiac hypertrophy, and how this process is modulated by a unique time-keeping mechanism within the heart cells called the “circadian clock.” Specifically, we want to know exactly how the clock controls “good” growth (i.e.- following exercise) and “bad” growth (i.e.- during cardiovascular disease), and whether attenuating cardiac hypertrophy with drugs that target key clock-regulated factors can increase lifespan. This research could place new emphasis on circadian rhythms in maintaining cardiovascular health and potentially uncover therapeutic strategies to ameliorate cardiovascular disease resulting from disruption of the circadian clock.

Andrew Arrant, PhD

Project Title: Molecular mechanisms of aging-related neuronal dysfunction in progranulin-insufficient mice  
Award: Glenn/AFAR Postdoctoral Fellowship 
Andrew Arrant 1Award Period: October 27, 2014 - August 30, 2015   
Progranulin is a secreted glycoprotein that is expressed throughout the body, where it has anti-inflammatory effects and acts as a growth factor. Data from humans and animal models indicate that progranulin is important for maintaining health during aging, especially in the brain. In humans, loss-of-function mutations in the progranulin gene increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease and are a major genetic cause of frontotemporal dementia. Progranulin-insufficient mice replicate many of the adverse effects of progranulin haploinsufficiency in humans. Progranulin-insufficient mice develop aging-related neuronal dysfunction that results in abnormal social and emotional behavior, and can be detected by reduced amygdala activation in a novel, social environment. Progranulin-insufficient mice are also more sensitive to inflammatory and ischemic injuries such as occur during neurodegeneration and stroke.

The goal of this proposal is to investigate the role of mTOR signaling in neuronal dysfunction of progranulin-insufficient mice, and to determine if this neuronal dysfunction may be reversed by boosting progranulin levels or modulating mTOR signaling.