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How can super-athletes help us?

What super-athletes can teach us about disease treatment

With each study of elite athletes being pushed to physical extremes, CU Anschutz researchers get deeper insights into metabolic flexibility and what it means to general health and the potential to head off future disease.

Travis Nemkov, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the CU School of Medicine, gave a presentation about what super-athletes can teach us about disease treatment.

Nemkov explained how researchers shifted their study of professional cyclists’ metabolomics, previously confined to a training room, onto the road of a competitive race. While the cyclists competed, blood samples were non-invasively collected from a small device attached to their shoulder. The dried blood droplets were then analyzed in the lab.

The platform allows the research team to collect detailed molecular data on anyone, not just athletes. “We’re trying to come up with a better information panel than the typical lab test, which is a single snapshot in time. … To transform healthcare we need to enhance the information that gets into these reports,” Nemkov said.

He added that a lot of metabolic-signature research has been done on hospitalized patients and sedentary people, as well as high-performing athletes on the other end of the spectrum. “Now the goal of our research is to fill this gap – we’re trying to figure out what else, physiologically, is going on in this (middle) area.”


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