Blood Test of the Future
What if a simple blood test could tell you exactly what type of exercise would be most beneficial for you? A research team led by Robert Gerszten, MD, Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), is using a more-than $11 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to make this idea a reality.
Gerszten and his team received the grant as part of the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans (MoTrPAC) consortium, a large-scale initiative of the NIH to investigate and map the molecular changes that occur in people’s bodies during and after exercise. The award builds on an earlier study in the journal Science Translational Medicine, in which Gerszten examined the specific molecules found in people who have been exercising. He and his team wanted to find out exactly how a person’s metabolism changes during and after exercise.
To do this, Gerszten’s team took blood samples from healthy adults, as well as from a separate group of patients who had shortness of breath or other signs of suspected coronary artery disease. Each of the two groups exercised for about 10 minutes on either a treadmill or a stationary bicycle, and then had more blood drawn after they finished their workout. Separately, the team examined blood samples from a group of runners who had successfully finished the Boston Marathon.
Their examination of the blood samples showed that after just the 10 minutes of exercise, there were striking changes in the metabolic molecules in the bloodstreams of both the healthy adults and the less fit group of patients. The fit adults showed increases of almost 100 percent of metabolites associated with burning fat, but the less fit group showed increases of up to 50 percent following exercise. The blood samples of the marathon runners contained up to 10 times more of these fat-burning molecules.
Further experiments revealed lasting effects in the body. “It’s like a chain reaction,” says Gerszten. “Physical activity causes actions within cells that helps genes to change blood levels of sugars and fatty acids.” This, in turn, plays a key role in a person’s risks for developing heart disease, diabetes and other cardiac and metabolic conditions.
The next step in Gerszten’s research — where the NIH grant comes in — is to analyze tens of thousands of blood samples from people of different races, ethnic groups, genders, ages and fitness levels. The team’s goal is to help personalize medicine by creating the next generation of blood tests. “This will enable us to comprehensively map the changes that take place in the body during physical movement, with the ultimate goals of identifying new drug targets and tailoring exercise programs to individuals in a highly precise way,” says Gerszten.
Above content provided by the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.