UTMB student to research muscle loss in older adults through novel exercise technique

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University of Texas Medical Branch student David Gundermann has received a $10,000 fellowship for exercise and nutrition research on muscle loss in older adults. Gundermann is a rehabilitation sciences doctoral student in UTMB’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and a member of the Muscle Biology and Metabolism Laboratory within UTMB’s new Department of Nutrition and Metabolism.
The fellowship was awarded through the Jess Hay Endowment for Chancellor’s Graduate Student Research Fellowships, which supports graduate student research fellowship grants to students attending any of the University of Texas institutions. Named after the former chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, the endowment “ties timely graduate education to timely and high-quality research, which benefits the state,” said Randa Safady, vice chancellor for external relations at UT System.
Only two graduate students within the UT System of universities are awarded this fellowship each year. The other recipient, Lori Pierce, is a doctoral student of linguistics at UT Arlington.
Gundermann’s research focuses on blood flow restriction exercise — a novel form of exercise where a tourniquet is placed on an arm or leg to restrict blood flow.  His research shows subjects who lift weights when their blood flow is restricted are able to build significantly more muscle than when lifting the same weight without the restriction. He is looking at how and why — on a molecular level — this phenomenon occurs.
His findings could be of major significance for frail, elderly patients or those who have been injured and are not able to lift heavy weights but who need the benefits of weight-bearing exercise.  Gundermann’s research also includes the role of sports nutrition and protein intake in regulating the cellular mechanisms that control muscle growth and strength in humans following exercise.
“All his work is designed to develop evidence-based rehabilitation interventions to counteract muscle loss during the aging process, which will allow older adults to remain active, healthy and independent longer,” said Blake Rasmussen, interim chairman of the UTMB Department of Nutrition and Metabolism and the Lloyd and Sue Ann Hill Professor of Healthy Aging at UTMB.
In addition to his prolific work in the lab, Gundermann is also a skilled public communicator and student mentor. He has presented his research findings at several national conferences and local events with clarity and knowledge, said Rasmussen, who serves as Gundermann’s research mentor and recommended Gundermann for the fellowship.
Gundermann has tutored undergraduate physical therapy majors studying exercise physiology. He has also served as a mentor for UTMB’s Research and Design program for Ball High School students for several years, winning the Outstanding Mentor award in 2011.
A native of Guelph, Ontario, Gundermann received his bachelor’s degree in biomedical science from the University of Guelph and his master’s degree in human performance from the University of Florida. He plans to receive his Ph.D. from UTMB later this year.
First three photos: UTMB doctoral student David Gundermann works with research subject Josh Wolfe to secure blood flow restriction devices in preparation for exercise. Fourth and fifth photos: Gundermann works in the lab with Ball High School student Meagan Elferink – a student he mentored throughout the 2011-2012 school year. Sixth photo: A research subject performs blood flow restriction exercise.