American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Stimulus Package)

NIAMS ARRA Chronicles

ARRA Spurs Ideal Match in UCSD Muscle Program
Dateline: San Diego, CA

December 7, 2009

"It's hard to underestimate the power of synergy," says Richard Lieber, Ph.D., professor of Orthopaedics and Bioengineering at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). "Our program now has that synergy in Simon, since he can speak the languages of 'muscle,' 'exercise,' 'diabetes' and 'metabolism.'"

The "Simon" Dr. Lieber speaks of is Simon Schenk, Ph.D., a crackerjack postdoc—formerly with UCSD's Department of Medicine—whom Dr. Lieber recently added to his muscle research team. Dr. Schenk, whose professional interests lie in exercise physiology and triglyceride metabolism (the processing of fats by the body), is an ideal match for Dr. Lieber's program, which has been poised to investigate the origins of problematic fat/muscle interactions. Dr. Schenk was able to sign on with the team courtesy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).

Dr. Lieber had worked collaboratively with Dr. Schenk for several years, and knew that he was the right person for the position. But timing and funding issues stood in the way for many months. Until, that is, an ARRA-supported funding mechanism called Core Centers for Supporting New Faculty Recruitment Enhancing Research Capacity in U.S. Academic Institutions (P30) was announced. "The grant mechanism created the perfect storm," says Dr. Lieber, and he wasted no time in using it to bring Dr. Schenk on board.

Now, Dr. Schenk is able to employ his considerable talents to find out how fat is able to infiltrate muscle tissue and cause physiological problems. Fat in muscle, for example, is linked to insulin resistance, an issue in diabetes. Muscle degeneration and replacement by fat is found in the muscular dystrophies. "When an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan shows fat accumulation in muscle, it's a bad sign," says Dr. Lieber. "We want to discover the source of the fat, how fatty infiltration occurs and how we might fix it."

"We all knew Simon would be a wonderful match for our program goals, but we just couldn't get him, and all the while he was receiving offers from all around the country," recalls Dr. Lieber. "The ARRA opportunity has now allowed us to create a tremendous synergy between the Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery, Bioengineering and Medicine to study issues in muscle related to metabolic problems."

"Simon's future is very bright," he says, "and this new synergy is very likely to lead to breakthrough-type discoveries. Thanks, ARRA!"

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To learn more about the National Institutes of Health's Core Centers for Supporting New Faculty Recruitment Enhancing Research Capacity in U.S. Academic Institutions (P30), go to http://www.niams.nih.gov/Recovery/arra_capacity.asp.

The activity above is being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). More information about the National Institutes of Health's ARRA grant funding opportunities can be found at http://grants.nih.gov/recovery/. To track the progress of HHS activities funded through the ARRA, visit www.hhs.gov/recovery. To track all federal funds provided through the ARRA, visit www.recovery.gov.

To visit the Skeletal Muscle Physiology Web site, go to http://muscle.ucsd.edu.