Dr. Rachel Tinius and Dr. Jill Maples both assistant professors in the School of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport in the College of Health and Human Services, were recently awarded a Kentucky Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (KBRIN)-INBRE Investigator Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. This funding is provided by grant number NIGMS 2 P20 M103436-14.
Dr. Jill Maples explains blood sample processing to students.
The objective of the KBRIN-IDeA grant program is to provide support to promising junior investigators at Kentucky colleges and universities to establish a research program involving undergraduate students that is competitive for NIH funding. In addition to providing funds for research support, the program requires release time from teaching, training and mentoring in NIH proposal development, and the development of collaborative relationship with a senior scientist (mentor).
“Dr. Maples and Dr. Tinius are outstanding young researchers, and both are tremendous assets to the School of Kinesiology, Recreation & Sport,” stated Dr. Scott Lyons, director for the school. “Their research is important and timely, and they are excellent at utilizing students to assist in all aspects of their scholarship. By acquiring this grant funding, they are benefitting not only themselves and their research teams, but also the entire School of Kinesiology, Recreation & Sport."
Dr. Rachel Tinius tests BethAnne Clayton's aerobic capactiy. BethAnne is a student and pregnant participant in the study.
The goal of Tinius’ research is focused on improving the health of pregnant women and their babies, both nationally and in South Central Kentucky. Physical activity during pregnancy improves many maternal and infant health outcomes; however, most pregnant women still do not comply with physical activity recommendations. One of Tinius’ research projects will help identify several potential pathways (i.e. metabolic and inflammatory pathways) that can be targeted with future exercise interventions, as well as implement a sustainable intervention designed to increase physical activity levels through education and community resources.
“I could not be more excited about receiving KBRIN funding,” relied Tinius. “Thanks to this funding, we will be able to implement a potentially sustainable program that will hopefully increase awareness about all of the benefits of physical activity during pregnancy in South Central Kentucky. Through collaboration with a number of local obstetricians and community partners, we also hope to improve physical activity levels during pregnancy in women in our area, while exploring some novel mechanisms that may be contributing to improved outcomes in physically active women. I believe this project will be a wonderful platform for WKU students to engage in clinical research while working with health care providers and fitness professionals in the community.”
Maples, initially awarded an IDeA in 2014, received an award renewal to continue her research aimed at improving the metabolic dysregulation evident in complex metabolic diseases like obesity. Severely obese individuals are metabolically inflexible in terms of adjusting metabolism in response to their dietary intake, which may lead to weight gain and other metabolic problems like insulin resistance. This is important because the prevalence of severe obesity in the United States, particularly among younger women, is increasing rapidly. The IDeA program has allowed Maples to train students and investigate this area of research, which deals with one of the most significant health issues of our time, metabolic disease and obesity. The purpose of this research is to develop a greater understanding of overall metabolic health and the epigenetic mechanisms that likely play a role in metabolic health. The long-term goals of Maples’ research are to help identify therapeutic targets to treat the complex metabolic diseases like obesity and improve the metabolic health of individuals in her community and beyond.
“I am thrilled to receive a third year of KBRIN-INBRE support, which has allowed me to engage both graduate and undergraduate students in research focused on a critical health topic,” Maples said.
The Kentucky Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network is a network of support for biomedical researchers and educators within the Commonwealth of Kentucky, The purpose of the network is to develop infrastructure and capacity for biomedical research and training in the state.
Drs. Jill Maples and Rachel Tinius