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Hopping Mad?

Published: 29th October 2009

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Scientists at MMU's Institute for Biomedical Research into Human Movement and Health are appealing for male volunteers to use crutches for three weeks whilst having one of their legs suspended in a sling and wearing an adapted trainer with a 10cm sole on the other foot.

Although it may appear that researchers have gone hopping mad, the study is actually part of a £650,000 EU-funded project into disease and ageing secured by MMU professors Marco Narici and David Jones. The research forms part of a £12 million integrated project taking place at universities across Europe.

Volunteers invaluable to project

Research Fellow Dr Olivier Seynnes, who is overseeing the study, explains: "Our muscle mass and strength naturally begin to decrease from the age of 30 but muscle wastage can be a real problem after 65. It is especially bad during times of bed-rest or hospitalisation when muscles aren’t being used and recovery from surgery and illness can be much more complicated."

Dr Seynnes continues: "Our research aims to develop methods to both stop muscle wastage happening before people go into hospital and to speed up their recovery. Volunteers are invaluable to the project's success as leg suspension enables us to recreate the effect of disuse and, in doing so, examine muscle health and explore why and how muscles waste. The information we gather from the tests will also be used in a variety of further research into ageing."

Muscle strength tested

After three weeks on crutches volunteers will have their leg muscles examined using ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, which are both free from ionizing radiation and not harmful to health, and their strength will be tested by performing leg extensions on a dynamometer. Three weeks of recovery using resistance training with weights will follow and all effects from leg suspension are completely reversible.

MMU student Emma-Louise Campbell, who is exploring the role of exercise and diet in preventing muscle wasting in old age for her PhD, adds: "Half of our volunteers will also drink an amino acid solution to assess the impact of a protein supplement on muscle wasting."

The study will take place in January 2010 and volunteers will be compensated for their time and travel at a set fee. Volunteers must be male, aged between 18-35 years and in good health. During the three week leg suspension period volunteers will not be allowed to drive.

Those interested in taking part should contact Emma-Louise on 0161 247 5950 or e-mail e.campbell@mmu.ac.uk.