Appalachian will recruit cyclists for its first study
By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLISóAppalachian State University will begin recruiting area cyclists for its first study at the N.C. Research Campus.
Appalachian, the eighth university to partner with the campus, has hired Dr. Andrew Shanely to run day-to-day operations for the ASU Human Performance Lab in Kannapolis.
“I am very excited,” said Shanely, who worked as an assistant professor of pharmacy at Wingate University until now. “This is an amazing opportunity to do science at the world’s best facility.”
This fall, Shanely will advertise for cyclists and visit area cycling clubs.
He predicted he’ll have no trouble finding willing subjects, thanks to the popularity of cycling in the Charlotte area.
The ASU Human Performance Lab needs cyclists because “they are masochists,” joked Shanely, himself a cyclist and former study subject.
The research conducted at Appalachian’s main campus in Boone, and soon at the branch in Kannapolis, often requires subjects to exhaust themselves.
“Cyclists will push themselves at a very high level of exertion for long periods of time,” Shanely said.
Led by Dr. David Nieman, director of the Boone and Kannapolis labs, Appalachian is studying the ability of a substance called quercetin to reduce illness, boost immunity and maintain mental performance when subjects exercise to the point of exhaustion.
Quercetin is a natural antioxidant found in red grapes, red wine, red apples, green tea and broccoli.
The U.S. Department of Defense gave Nieman’s team $1 million in 2005 to study quercetin in humans.
Those findings were so promising that the military is testing quercetin to help maintain the immune systems of troops who are undergoing the physical and cognitive stresses of combat.
Nieman’s team hopes to create a nutritional supplement containing quercetin and four or five additional substances that would provide protection for people under stress by lowering illness rates and boosting immunity.
Shanely said he doesn’t know yet how many cyclists he will need or whether they will be paid.
For example, researchers might ask cyclists to ride stationary bikes for three or four days in a row, performing at 60 percent of their maximum power for several hours each time.
“That allows us to do research under very controlled, consistent and reproduceable conditions,” Shanely said.
Researchers take blood and muscle tissue before and after the exertion. Cyclists usually tolerate the muscle biopsy well, Shanely said.
“There is minimum swelling,” he said.
Appalachian will move directly into its permanent location at the Research Campus in October, occupying one-fourth of the first floor in the building shared by N.C. State University and Dole Food Co.
Seven other universities with branches in Kannapolis, including Duke University and six schools in the UNC System, all have temporary offices in Cannon Village while they await completion of their buildings.
David H. Murdock, the billionaire owner of Dole Food Co., is developing the $1.5 billion biotechnology hub in downtown Kannapolis. His real estate company Castle & Cooke is constructing the buildings, which he will lease to universities and private companies.
Shanely’s job description is still a work in progress, he said.
He has a special interest in aging, specifically in a condition called sarcopenia, which is marked by the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength.
Shanely wants to learn how quercetin might affect sarcopenia.
ASU will have access to the Core Lab’s one-of-a-kind instruments at the Research Campus, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with other universities.
“I think it’s an extraordinary campus in a state already known for world-class science and biotechnology,” said Shanely. “It’s a vehicle to expand on that in an incredible way.”
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