LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas professor has been chosen to take part in a grant project that will test the role of a dietary supplement in muscle growth for everyone from athletes to the elderly and has also been named educator of the year by the granting agency.
Andrew Fry, professor of health, sport and exercise science, will be a co-investigator on a grant from the National Strength and Conditioning Association that investigates the role of nitric oxide synthase, a compound that stimulates production of nitric oxide, which appears to play a role during hypertrophy, or muscle growth.
“It certainly has potential for high-level performers such as athletes,” Fry said of the compound. “But it also has implications for a whole range of people who need to grow muscle for a variety of reasons, such as the elderly, patients fighting cancer and many others.”
Fry will conduct the testing with colleagues Zsolt Radak and Zsolt Murlasits, faculty members at Semmelweis University in Budapest Hungary. The researchers will test the compound in rats. The rats have three major muscles of interest in their legs, one primary and two “support” muscles. The support muscles will be removed among a group of rats. Some will get the compound as a supplement in their food and others will receive a placebo. The rats will take part in a program designed to mimic strength conditioning. The remaining muscle will undoubtedly have to compensate for the other two, Fry said, but the researchers will see what role the supplement plays in that muscle growth by examining signaling pathways and the role of a protein known as mTOR.
“The intent is to see if a dietary supplement with nitric oxide synthase has an effect. We’ll look at the size of the individual muscle fibers and we’ll look for some particular proteins that are activated when muscle growth occurs,” Fry said.
The results could potentially make a difference in both sport and exercise sciences. The two are often confused due to their similarities. Where sport science looks primarily at improving performance on the field of play, exercise science looks at improving health, strength and related factors among individuals for purposes such as physical therapy, general fitness, personal training, military and law enforcement and recovery from illness.
Fry will travel to Budapest regularly for the research. In addition to the grant project, he intends to help establish contacts for students and lay the groundwork for exchanges between the two universities. That network could lead to research opportunities for students, further collaboration between faculty members in the two countries and a chance for students from each country to study abroad.
Fry’s work with students recently earned him the title of “Educator of the Year” from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He was nominated for the award and chosen based on his classroom work, teaching philosophy, community work and student results, such as internships. Fry teaches classes in methods of strength training and conditioning, kinesiology, biomechanics, skeletal muscle physiology and exercise endocrinology. He also volunteers with area youth sport organizations and recently authored the “Strength Training Workbook.” The book guides students through the process of taking theories they learn from their classes and using them to design a detailed strength and conditioning program for a wide variety of audiences and explaining how and why they designed the program the way they did.
“(The book) looks at how you can create a detailed program custom made to fit the needs of an individual or organization,” Fry said. “Whether the purpose is rehabilitation, general fitness, sport, a school setting or others, the students are required to explain why they chose what they did. From an educational standpoint it’s easy to talk about it, now you have to go do it and be accountable.”