Exercise Of The Future? Genomics-based & Customised!

For years, scientists have studied the effects of different types of exercise on the human body, but never before at the level of molecular precision, says new research. 

Exercise in the future could be customised for people based on genomics, according to a study by Arizona State University and the Translational Genomics Research Institute. Their study, published in the ‘Journal of Applied Physiology’, has characterised some of the molecular changes that happen in muscle tissue following different types of exercise, specifically resistance exercise like lifting weights, versus that of aerobic exercise (in this study, cycling).

Researchers used advanced technology like Whole Transcriptome RNA Sequencing (WTSS), which is next-generation sequencing to reveal the presence and quantity of RNA in a biological sample, to identify genes that were affected uniquely by each type of exercise. The researchers took muscle samples from six men, between the ages 27-30, before their exercises, and again at one hour and four hours following both weight lifting and cycling.

The study found 48 unique genes following aerobic exercise, and 348 unique genes following weight lifting, that were ‘differentially expressed’, meaning the exercises made the genes more powerful or less powerful, like a dimmer switch on a chandelier.

“This data shows that different exercises elicit unique molecular activity in skeletal muscle,” says Dr Jared Dickinson, the study’s lead author. “These findings support the need for additional research that better identifies how exercise strategies can be used to target specific molecular responses in the muscle tissue, which could have implications for those that suffer from abnormalities in muscle.”

The use of RNA sequencing in the research was significant because it provided a broader range of analysis, especially for genes expressed at low levels. This, along with increased specificity and the ability to identify novel genes that otherwise might not be detected through lesser technologies.

The study has also found that aerobic exercise increased expression of one specific gene associated with greater oxygen capacity. The ESRRG gene improves endurance, enhanced development of blood vessels and is also important in improving function of mitochondria, the powerhouse of cells.

The researchers hope to find better ways to promote muscle health by better understanding the unique molecular processes stimulated by different types of exercise. They also maintain that this research could lead to more effective exercise interventions that target abnormalities associated with specific muscle dysfunctions.

Says senior author Dr Matt Huentelman, “We hope to leverage these findings into more precise exercise recommendations in the future – ones that are tailored to an individual not only based on their physiological needs but also based on their molecular response to exercise.”

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