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ACHRI, ACNC Begin Focus on Link between Physiology and Obesity with Addition of New Researcher and Physical Fitness Lab

ACHRI, ACNC Begin Focus on Link between Physiology and Obesity with Addition of New Researcher and Physical Fitness Lab

LITTLE ROCK, AR. (Sept. 23, 2013) – Research into childhood obesity will have an integral focus on metabolism and physical activity with the addition of new programs at the Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) and the Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center (ACNC). The work will be led by Elisabet Borsheim, PhD, who joins the institutions after spending 14 years at the Metabolism Unit at the Shriners Hospitals for Children and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

Borsheim's experience in metabolic research and physiology will bridge the ongoing research at ACHRI in community-based obesity solutions and at ACNC in how nutrition and diet affect children's weight and overall health.

Borsheim is bringing with her a research team consisting of postdoctoral fellows, a junior faculty and a lab manager. Borsheim and her team are adding two important components to the ongoing obesity research at ACHRI/ACNC: the first being a state-of-the-art physical activity lab, and the second being unique methodology, not currently available at ACHRI/ACNC, to precisely measure energy and substrate metabolism.

The additional focus will include building an exercise physiology lab on the campus of ACHRI, said Borsheim, the new director of the Energy Expenditure and Metabolism Research Program at ACHRI and ACNC. The program will include the addition of a small gymnasium set-up along with suites for interviews and metabolic studies of research participants.

"This will be a lab where parents, children and pregnant women will come in for studies on physical activities," said Borsheim, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine. "It will serve as a small gym for training and acute activities, and then we'll be able to monitor the relationship to substrate metabolism and energy expenditure."

Studies in the lab could include exercise activities like walking on a treadmill, strength exercises and testing of work capacity. Scientists will look at how exercise relates to body composition, weight and how the body handles carbohydrates, fat and protein.

Work on outfitting the lab, which will be housed in existing space on the first floor of the main research facility, will begin this fall. Funds to purchase equipment to be used for Dr. Borsheim's research will be provided, in part, by the Arkansas Biosciences Institute, which was created as the major research component of the Tobacco Settlement Proceeds Act of 2000.

ACHRI launched the Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program in 2012, bringing together several grant-funded investigators in childhood obesity to help scientists develop strategies to reverse the epidemic. At the program's core is translational research into the causes of obesity, as well as education and advocacy for community-based prevention strategies. The program is co-directed by Thomas Badger, PhD, also director of the Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center, and Judith Weber, PhD, who serves as principal investigator on six community-based childhood obesity prevention studies, including the well-known USDA-funded Delta Garden Study. Badger is also a professor of Pediatrics and Physiology and Biophysics in the UAMS College of Medicine, while Weber is an associate professor of Pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine and Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health.

The physiology and metabolic research will prompt even more collaboration among the disciplines represented in the Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program. For example, the basic research findings of scientists at ACNC might be studied in humans in the physiology lab, and then those outcomes could be further tested in community-based programs similar to the Delta Garden Study research facilitated by ACHRI.

"In the future, we also envision lifetime studies," Borsheim said. "Studies we do with children and follow into adulthood, examining how early exercise and nutrition will affect the health outcomes later in life."

Arkansas Children's Hospital is the only pediatric medical center in Arkansas and one of the largest in the United States serving children from birth to age 21. Over the past century, ACH has grown to span 29 city blocks and house 316 beds, a staff of approximately 500 physicians, 80 residents in pediatrics and pediatric specialties and more than 4,000 employees. The private, nonprofit healthcare facility boasts an internationally renowned reputation for medical breakthroughs and intensive treatments, unique surgical procedures and forward-thinking medical research - all dedicated to fulfilling our mission of enhancing, sustaining and restoring children's health and development. For more information, visit www.archildrens.org.

ACHRI provides a research environment on the ACH campus to meet the needs of the UAMS faculty. Research scientists at ACHRI conduct clinical, basic science, and health services research for the purpose of treating illnesses, preventing disease and improving the health of children everywhere.

UAMS is the state's only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. Named best Little Rock metropolitan area hospital by U.S. News & World Report, it is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has more than 2,800 students and 790 medical residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children's Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS regional centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com.

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