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York flexes its muscle with new research centre

York flexes its muscle with new research centre

York University is flexing its muscle. With the recent launch of the Muscle Health Research Centre (MHRC), the University is devoting time and space to understanding what makes us move, reported Metro Toronto Feb. 9.

“It’s a centre that brings together about 16 different scientists who all study muscle in some way. Mostly skeletal muscle, the muscles that make us move,” says David Hood, director of the centre.

Besides looking good, muscle is fundamental to our survival.

“Muscle is 40 per cent of your body, so it’s a large amount of your body mass,” says Hood. “It’s involved in metabolism and locomotion and it adapts. So many of us focus on exercise and how exercise promotes adaptations in muscle that make us healthier. It’s not about high-performance athletes. It’s really about the study of muscle and its relation to the health of Canadians.”

Muscle plays a large role in many health ailments. Diabetes, obesity, aging and even cancer are all related to muscle and its prevalence in the body.

“A third of cancer patients actually die of muscle wasting. They don’t die of the tumour. They die because that tumour secretes things that affect the condition of muscle, and eventually, they’ll have respiratory failure because the respiratory muscles aren’t working.”

The MHRC is the only centre in Canada devoted to studying muscle. “There’s plenty of room for lots of research and that’s why a centre like this is important,” says Hood. “We all have different interests in muscle and come from different sides of the coin, but we all study muscle and its implications for health.”

The centre has been in the works for a number of years but officially opened last month, said Metro. Because York doesn’t have a medical school, the centre is more research-oriented. However, Hood is looking to grow.

“My goal is to help this develop from the human side,” he said. “We’ve been studying animal models of muscle disease and dysfunction, and models of exercise for many years, but now we’re going to try to move to the human side of things.”

Part of the MHRC’s objective is to increase the visibility of biomedical science at York, and Toronto in general. “We have a new Faculty of Health here at York. The idea is to attract scientists and students from all over the place. To bring people together and increase the visibility of muscle health research in Canada and around the world.”

By Leyla Emory. Reprinted courtesy of Metro Toronto.