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Pump priming award recipients announced

As part of its management of the Drummond Memorial Fund, BNF is providing two grants in 2013, each of £5000, to help newly-appointed university lecturers and research fellows, in human nutrition, to undertake the pilot work needed to generate data that can be used as the basis of a more substantial grant application.

The recipients of the two grants have now been announced - Dr Andrew Murton, University of Nottingham, and Dr Mario Siervo, Newcastle University. Details of the two recipients and their research projects can be found below.

Dr Andrew Murton

Dr Andrew Murton has been in his first academic appointment since May 2012 as a Lecturer within the Division of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Nottingham. Prior to this, Dr Murton worked for several years within the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Nottingham, working under the guidance of Professors Paul Greenhaff and Michael Rennie to gain a working knowledge of the mechanisms that regulate muscle protein turnover in humans. He also developed skills required to examine protein turnover in vivo in humans via the use of stable-isotope methodologies and insulinaemic euglycaemic clamps.

Project summary

An important response to the consumption of protein is the synthesis of new proteins within muscle tissue, which is essential for the maintenance of muscle size. In older obese individuals, this natural response appears diminished and may represent one mechanism by which these individuals lose muscle mass, a clinical condition that has been termed sarcopenic obesity. One of the many consequences of obesity is the accumulation of branched-chain amino acids in the blood in the fasted state. While the branched-chain amino acids are responsible for stimulating the synthesis of new proteins in muscle when protein is consumed, research has shown that their over-consumption has a negative effect on their ability to stimulate protein synthesis.  Therefore, it is hypothesized that the accumulation of branched-chain amino acids in the blood of obese individuals is having a negative effect on the ability of consumed protein to stimulate the synthesis of new muscle proteins, and thereby maintain muscle mass. This project is aimed at exploring in muscle cells the mechanism by which this process may occur. It is anticipated that this work will form the basis of a larger project aimed at formally testing the hypothesis and the mechanisms identified, in human volunteers.

“I was delighted and honoured to hear that I had been awarded a BNF Drummond Memorial Fund pump priming award in its inaugural year. The early years of your first academic appointment represent a crucial stage of your research career as you attempt to setup your own research group and develop a reputation. It is great to see the BNF recognising the challenges faced by early career researchers and responding by instigating this award in conjunction with the Drummond Memorial Fund. The support provided by this award will enable me to generate pilot data and thereby have a meaningful impact on my ability to attract larger research funding.”

Dr Mario Siervo

altDr Mario Siervo completed his PhD in ‘In vivo measurement of nitric oxide production in humans using stable isotopes’ at the MRC Human Nutrition Research in Cambridge. He was a research fellow at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda (USA) before returning to the UK for his first academic appointment as a Lecturer in Nutrition and Ageing at the Human Nutrition Research Centre at Newcastle University.

Project summary

Hypertension is defined as an abnormal increase in blood pressure caused by genetic, lifestyle and dietary factors and it is associated with important diseases, such as heart failure and stroke. Examples of dietary factors linked to raised blood pressure are high salt intake and a low consumption of fruits and vegetables. The beneficial effects of vegetable consumption on blood pressure could derive from the presence of a small molecule called inorganic nitrate, which is found in most vegetable products. Green leafy vegetables and beetroot are particularly rich in organic nitrate. After ingestion, inorganic nitrate is rapidly transformed into another molecule called nitric oxide, which is one of the most important molecules in the control of blood pressure in humans. Recent research conducted in mice has discovered that the transformation of inorganic nitrate into nitric oxide in the body may become more efficient in the presence of vitamin C. This study will test for the first time in humans whether vitamin C can improve the effects of inorganic nitrate on blood pressure control. The results will advance knowledge on the role of novel nutritional factors in the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure in humans.

"This is a life changing moment in my career and I am honored to be one the recipients of this prestigious award"