Health Care Public Health Science and Innovation

Researchers Explore Molecular Responses to Exercise in Groundbreaking Trial

On a molecular level, what happens to the body after exercise? AdventHealth Orlando researchers have embarked on a landmark study to find the answer.

Bret Goodpaster, PhD headshot
Bret Goodpaster, PhD is the AdventHealth Translational Research Institute Scientific Director and Senior Investigator. He is also the Principal Investigator for the MoTrPAC study.

The Translational Research Institute (TRI) at AdventHealth Orlando is one of nine clinical sites nationwide partnering with the National Institutes of Health(NIH) on the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium study, or MoTrPAC, to explore molecular changes that occur during and after exercise.

The goal of the MoTrPAC study is to create a comprehensive map of the molecular responses to both aerobic and resistance training and discover novel molecules that promote the health benefits of exercise.

“The bottom line is it’s the first large-scale effort to investigate the why and the how of exercise benefits,” said Bret Goodpaster, Ph.D., principal investigator for AdventHealth’s portion of the study. “We know exercise can be very powerful, but we don’t know why or how it works. What are the molecules involved and how do we tailor an exercise program that works best for each individual?”

The principal MoTrPAC hypothesis is that there are discoverable molecules that communicate a response to exercise on cells, tissues, and organs, which may initiate processes ultimately leading to the health benefits of exercise.

“One of the key insights from the MoTrPAC study so far is that there is a notable variation in how people respond to exercise, even if they are doing the same type and amount of exercise,” Goodpaster said. “This may be important to customize the type and amount of exercise for the individual and get away from the one-size-fits-all mentality for exercise.”

Goodpaster and his team will examine 150 participants in the MoTrPAC study, which began in August 2021. Once enrolled, the participants are classified into three groups:

  • sedentary people — those not currently exercising,
  • aerobic athletes, such as cyclists or Ironman athletes, and
  • anaerobic athletes, such as powerlifters and bodybuilders.

The sedentary group are placed on a 12-week exercise program, with some participants doing cycling and other aerobic activities, while the already established aerobic and anaerobic athletes focus on resistance training, such as weight training. Researchers collect blood and tissue samples from all three groups before and after each exercise session, Goodpaster said. 

MoTrPAC AdventHealth TV Story

Bret Goodpaster, PhD, explains the indefinite science behind exercise and what researchers intend to learn during this 6-year study in a 2019 interview with “AdventHealth TV,” the Central Florida Division’s internal newscast for AdventHealth team members.

The three-year study, funded by a $240 million program through the NIH Common Fund, will involve roughly 2,000 participants nationwide. In addition to AdventHealth Orlando, clinical research sites include Duke University, Ball State University, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Colorado and the University of California-Irvine.

Once completed, scientists worldwide will be able to apply cutting-edge bioinformatics, including machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze the MoTrPAC molecular outcomes and improve the types of exercise tailored and prescribed for each individual.

AdventHealth’s MoTrPAC study currently has openings for more participants and is open through Summer 2023. For more information on the MoTrPAC study or to participate, click here.

The AdventHealth Translational Research Institute develops and conducts world-class translational research addressing diabetes, obesity, the metabolic origins of cardiovascular disease, and aging. In 2020, TRI investigators were published 337 peer-reviewed medical journals.