Sport and Exercise Science research themes

Skeletal muscle in health and disease

Skeletal muscle in health and disease

Joint theme with the Cardiovascular and Sport and Exercise Science research groups. 

Our research focuses on skeletal muscle structure and function using a range of approaches from assessment of fundamental molecular mechanisms that underlie excitation-contraction coupling through to whole-body functional measures that underpin muscle performance.

Our interests lie in the muscle itself, including blood vessels and fibre composition, as well as in the neural mechanisms and pathways through which the central nervous system and skeletal muscles communicate.

We investigate the processes of muscle fatigue and atrophy/hypertrophy, and examine how these can be influenced by a range of interventions including physical activity, stimulation, hypoxia, nutrition, exercise training and drugs. We also explore the mechanisms and potential therapies for skeletal muscle pathology seen in muscle ischaemia, atrophy or hypertrophy, heart failure, malignant hyperthermia, and accompanying statin treatment.

We use animal models of exercise and disease, and human muscle biopsies obtained through collaborations with colleagues in the Faculty of Medicine and Health and international collaborators, which together promote the translational relevance of our work.

For muscle structure and function, we apply an array of techniques that include light/confocal/super-resolution/electron microscopy and protein chemistry, alongside bioinformatic analysis of gene expression, as well as in vitro and in vivo assessments of muscle performance.

To explore the control of neuromuscular function, we use stimulation of peripheral nerves and areas of the motor cortex to reveal the involvement of the peripheral, spinal and supraspinal mechanisms in muscle function. These experimental techniques are complemented by computational modelling.

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Area of expertise

Dr Graham Askew
Associate Professor in Biomechanics
Skeletal muscle excitation-contraction coupling; calcium signaling; electrophysiology; confocal imaging 
Dr Al Benson
Lecturer in Cardiovascular Science
Computational modelling; magnetic resonance imaging; cardiopulmonary exercise testing; near infrared spectroscopy
Dr T. Scott Bowen
Lecturer in Exercise Physiology
Contractile function; muscle atrophy/hypertrophy; mitochondrial function; diaphragm; exercise training; small-molecule therapeutics 
Dr Sarah Calaghan
Associate Professor in Cardiac Physiology
Calcium handling; muscle contraction; caveolae; protein chemistry; post translational modification; light and electron microscopy; rodent exercise analysis

Professor Stuart Egginton
Leadership Chair in Exercise Science

Physiology (cardiovascular, respiratory, skeletal muscle); angiogenesis; peripheral oxygen transport; microcirculation; exercise; thermal acclimation

Dr Carrie Ferguson
Lecturer in Physiology

Mechanisms of exercise intolerance; cardiopulmonary exercise testing; VO2kinetics; exercise intensity; exercise bioenergetics

Dr Ronaldo Ichiyama
Associate Professor in Motor Control

Neural control of movement; motoneurones; rehabilitation; neural trauma

Dr Izzy Jayasinghe
Lecturer in Cardiovascular Science

Super-resolution microscopy of the calcium signalling and contractile machinery as an avenue to understand the structural basis of skeletal muscle contraction and the fine remodelling which takes place in chronic (inherited) diseases and acute muscle damage

Dr Matthew Lancaster
Lecturer in Exercise Physiology

Sarcopenia with ageing; protection against sarcopenia

Professor Derek Steele
Professor of Cellular Physiology

Skeletal muscle excitation-contraction coupling; calcium signaling; electrophysiology; confocal imaging

Dr Bryan Taylor
University Academic Fellow in Cardiovascular Exercise Medicine

Electrical and magnetic nerve stimulation; exercise-induced respiratory and locomotor muscle fatigue; assessment of central and peripheral mechanisms of fatigue