Clinical Exercise Science honours projects

Honours projects available in the Clinical Exercise Science research program are outlined on this page.

Gait, Balance & Falls

There are a number of projects available within the Gait, Balance & Falls topic area.

Exoskeleton Assisted Locomotion During Load Carriage

This project will investigate the biomechanical effect of exoskeleton assisted locomotion during load carriage in overground walking.

Background

The Program in Assistive Technology Innovation (PATI) was formed as a joint collaboration between Victoria University, Defence Science Technology (DST) Group and The University of Melbourne. The current program of research aims to assist in the design and development of an assistive device for reducing the load carrying burden in Australian Infantry soldiers. A passive exoskeleton that can reduce the load burden on the user has the potential to minimise the risk of injury.

Contact

Professor Rezaul Begg | rezaul.begg@vu.edu.au
Dr Kurt Mudie and Dr Dan Billing.

Influence of Load Carriage on Gait Mechanics

The aim of the current study is to improve the understanding of biomechanical adaptations to load carriage during walking. Excessive load carriage during walking can lead to lower limb and back injuries. It is imperative to understand the mechanics behind injurious tasks to assist the development of appropriate risk management/prevention strategies. This is an important step for the improved development of assistive technologies.

Background

The Program in Assistive Technology Innovation (PATI) was formed as a joint collaboration between Victoria University, Defence Science Technology (DST) Group and The University of Melbourne. Carrying heavy external loads for extended periods of time is required in many professions and recreational activities.

Contact

Professor Rezaul Begg | rezaul.begg@vu.edu.au
Dr Kurt Mudie and Dr Dan Billing.

Metabolic Function

There are a number of projects available within the Metabolic Function topic area.

Can Exercise Prevent the Negative Metabolic Effects of Shift Work?

The aims of this project are to determine whether exercise can overcome the negative metabolic effects of shift work in individuals who undertake a four day roster of simulated night shifts.

Background

Exposure to shift work is common and increasing, with more than 18% of the Australian workforce (over 1.5 million people) working outside the ‘normal’ working hours of 8am to 6pm, with similar proportions in other countries. Rates of type 2 diabetes and obesity are very high among shift workers, even after controlling for lifestyle and socioeconomic status. We have recently found that a roster of simulated night shift work (four nights) leads to a statistically and biologically significant 30% reduction in insulin sensitivity in young healthy individuals. This was independent of sleep and diet/fat intake which were controlled. It is very important to identify safe interventions to overcome such negative effects of shift work.

Contact

Professor Glenn McConell | glenn.mcconell@vu.edu.au . Professor David Kennaway (University of Adelaide), Associate Professor Itamar Levinger, Dr Tamara Varco (University of Adelaide), Professor David Bishop.

How Does Nitric Oxide Increase Insulin Sensitivity After Exercise?

The aim of this project is to elucidate the relative contributions of blood flow and muscle fibres to the Nictric OxideNO)-mediated increase in insulin sensitivity after contraction/exercise and the mechanisms involved. This line of work is resulting in a paradigm shift in our understanding of how exercise increases insulin sensitivity.

Background

The number of people with diabetes in Australia has been described as an epidemic having tripled since 1981. Type 2 diabetes (T2D) accounts for over 85% of people with diabetes. Most people are aware that ‘exercise is good for diabetes’ and it is often assumed that this is because exercise training causes weight loss. However, each bout of exercise increases insulin sensitivity and the extent of this increase is essentially normal in people with T2D, highlighting the powerful and alternative role of exercise in regulating this fundamental physiological process. Decreased insulin sensitivity is believed to be the underlying defect in a range of life style related diseases such as hypertension, dyslipidaemia, T2D and impaired cognitive function. Thus, understanding how exercise acts to increase insulin sensitivity has broad clinical implications. We have found for the first time that skeletal muscle nitric oxide (NO) is required for the increase in insulin sensitivity after exercise in healthy humans as well as following contraction in isolated mouse muscle.

Contact

Professor Glenn McConell | glenn.mcconell@vu.edu.au
Professor Erik Richter (University of Copenhagen).

Insulin Resistance, Exercise and Mitochondria

This project will be part of a larger project to examine the effect of giving sodium bicarbonate prior to exercise in an insulin resistant animal model. 

In particular this will involve the examination of genes and proteins with a potential role in mitochondrial function and biogenesis as well as insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.

Background

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) and insulin resistance (IR) are increasingly common health problems and represent a substantial economic burden. Identification of novel treatments for IR and T2D are vital and a goal of current research.

While multiple mechanisms are likely to be responsible, there is emerging evidence that decreases in skeletal muscle mitochondrial function and/or content may play a role in the development of T2D.

Exercise training is the most recognised activator of mitochondrial biogenesis, and may represent one of the best strategies to prevent and treat T2D. This is supported by research reporting exercise can improve mitochondrial function in T2D and this is associated with reduced insulin resistance. This suggests strategies to optimise exercise-induced improvements in mitochondrial function could have a significant impact on the prevention and treatment of both IR and T2D.  Previous work from our laboratory and others in both human and animal models have shown that giving sodium bicarbonate prior to exercise can improve both exercise performance and mitochondrial function.

Contact

Dr Amanda Genders, amanda.genders@vu.edu.au.
Professor David Bishop.

Muscle Mass & Neuromuscular Function

There are a number of projects available within the Muscle Mass & Neuromuscular Function topic area.

Muscle Adaptations to Training in the Elderly and with Inactivity

This Honours project extends this work (papers currently in submission/preparation) to explore other potential maladaptations in muscle that affect muscle function, in older adults and with inactivity. These include key proteins involved in muscle calcium, pH and potassium regulation.

Background

A well characterised aspect of aging and with inactivity is a decline in muscle mass and strength. Our research suggests a reduction with both aging and inactivity in the number of sodium, potassium pumps in muscle. This protein is vital in regulating muscle sodium and potassium concentrations and thus excitability and fatigue resistance; thus these changes have the potential to adversely affect muscle function.

For example of recent publications from our group search Pubmed using “McKenna MJ muscle” .

Contact

Professor Michael McKenna | michael.mckenna@vu.edu.au.

Sarcopenic Obesity: The Convergence of Two Epidemics!

This study will also examine the validity of different sarcopenia definitions for predicting future functional decline. New data will also be produced by investigating possible exercise and nutritional interventions designed to specifically decrease fat and/or increase muscle mass. A comparison of current operational definitions of sarcopenia to determine its prevalence in cohorts of Australian older adults will be undertaken. through database management skills and basic statistical analysis with collaborators from The University of Melbourne.

Background

Obesity has been steadily increasing over the last 20 years,such that more than 60% of adults are considered obese (with the accompanying comorbidities, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease also increasing).

Age-related muscle wasting (sarcopenia) affects almost half of those over 65 and is the largest determinant of falls and immobility in the elderly. It is also a major predictor of mortality. Therapies to arrest or reverse sarcopenia are vital to improve health, independence, quality of life and longevity.

Contact

Associate Professor Alan Hayes | alan.hayes@vu.edu.au.

Effects of Vitamin D on Skeletal Muscle Function

With collaborators from The University of Melbourne, we are currently undertaking a series of studies that can involve cell culture, ex vivo muscle contractions and human performance to better understand the role of vitamin D in muscle function.

Background

Vitamin D is a secosteroid hormone that has effects on virtually all tissues of the body. Long known to regulate bone mass, a lack of vitamin D increases risk of falls and fractures. One-third of the population is vitamin D deficient with a staggering 75% being under the optimal level, leading to decreased muscle strength and fatigue resistance. Thus, a lack of vitamin D has also been linked to sarcopenia and obesity.

Despite numerous correlations, there is very little specific information of how vitamin D affects muscle directly.

Contact

Associate Professor Alan Hayes | alan.hayes@vu.edu.au.

Coming in from the Cold: Is Cold or Heat Application Better for Muscle Recovery and Repair?

This project will compare the effects of cold or heat application on muscle injury repair in humans and will also investigate some of the mechanisms that may be responsible for any differences.

This project is being conducted in partnership with the Australian Institute of Sport.

Background

Soft-tissue injuries are common among athletes. Icing the injured site is commonly recommended following soft-tissue injury, however there is no clear evidence to support cold application for improving outcomes following soft-tissue injury. In fact, tissue cooling may actually impair many of the processes involved in tissue regeneration and repair and may be detrimental to injury recovery. In contrast, heat application has been shown to enhance muscle repair following injury. However, this has not yet been investigated in humans.

Contact

Dr Aaron Petersen | aaron.petersen@vu.edu.au.

Heat Effects on Adaptations to Resistance Training

This project, which is being conducted in partnership with the Australian Institute of Sport, aims to determine whether performing resistance training in a hot environment will amplify muscular adaptations to training and better enhance speed, power and agility.

This research has the potential to enhance current training practice and thus promote optimal performance.

Background

Resistance training in heat has been shown to enhance strength, protein synthesis and muscle remodelling, but its effects on speed, power and agility are unknown. The performance outcomes will be highly relevant to all athletes for whom speed, power and agility is important for sporting success.

Contact

Dr Aaron Petersen | aaron.petersen@vu.edu.au.

Effects of Cryotherapy on Recovery Following Resistance Training

To date, no studies have investigated the effects of cryotherapy on recovery following a resistance exercise bout. This is important as most athletes perform resistance training at some stage of their training and will therefore be the aim of this study. Faster and greater recovery following resistance training sessions could allow athletes to perform subsequent training sessions at a higher intensity, or to perform better at their chosen sport.

Background

Recovery modalities are gaining wide acceptance among athletes. Accordingly, a large body of research has focused on modalities designed to hasten the recovery process, with one of the most promising techniques being cryotherapy. Cryotherapy involves exposing the athlete to very cold air (-140°C) for 2-3 minutes during the immediate post-exercise period.

The benefits of cryotherapy reported to date include:

  • reduced oxidative stress
  • inflammation
  • perception of fatigue and muscle soreness
  • enhanced parasympathetic nervous system activity
  • faster recovery of exercise performance
  • faster recovery from muscle damage.

Contact

Dr Aaron Petersen | aaron.petersen@vu.edu.au

Muscle Wasting in Cancer

We have recently shown that the drug BGP-15 can improve many of the muscle impairments caused by chemotherapy. This project will investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying these improvements.

Background

Chemotherapy is an effective and commonly used treatment for many cancers. Unfortunately, chemotherapy causes debilitating side effects to numerous organs, including skeletal muscle, greatly impacting on overall health, quality of life, and mortality.

Contact

Dr Aaron Petersen | aaron.petersen@vu.edu.au

Improving Gait Performance By Optimising Power Versus Velocity Profiles in Older Adults

This project aims to investigate if the power versus velocity profiles of older adults can be used to predict and improve their gait performance through the definition of tailored resistance training programs.

In this project you will get the opportunity to learn the scientific procedures used to define power versus velocity profiles and measure gait performance in older adults. You will also learn how to link the variables extracted from both testing procedures. You will use these learnings to design tailored resistance training programs.

Contact

Dr David Rouffet | david.rouffet@vu.edu.au.

Effects of Tailored Exercise Training in pALs patients

This study aims to provide the first physiological evidence of the beneficial effect of exercise in pALS. Patients will perform a cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET) before and after 12 weeks of a combined aerobic and strength training program. During CPET, the maximal capacity of the muscle to extract O2 will be evaluated by Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS). Blood lactate will be measured in capillary blood samples obtained from an ear lobe, at rest and at the end of the CPET. These measurements will allow a comprehensive evaluation of the systemic response to exercise and to distinguish among possible cardiovascular and muscular modifications after the exercise training. The training will be performed at Victoria University Clinical Exercise Rehabilitation (VUCER) Clinic, Footscray Park Campus, three times per week for 12 weeks. The findings of this study will help to address the current lack of knowledge concerning the physiological effects of exercise in pALS, and will help to determine the role of physical activity in management and treatment.

Background

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a currently incurable disease, which typically manifests with muscle atrophy and weakness, leading to a loss of physical function, increasing disability and ultimately death. The reduction or avoidance of physical activity by pALS exacerbates the loss of physical function attributable to the disease itself and sets up a deleterious cycle of progressive impairment. One potential way to break this cycle is exercise. However, no published studies have implemented an exercise training program in pALS and collected objective physiological outcome data.

Contact

Alessandra Ferri | alessandra.ferri@vu.edu.au

Further information

More information about applying for an honours, scholarships and supervisors.

General enquiries about the Honours program can be directed to the Honours Coordinator, Senior Lecturer Dr Aaron Petersen.

Email: aaron.Petersen@vu.edu.au.