Jarrad Marcell


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Research Objectives

Concerning overtraining, the microbiome can serve as proxy to understand mechanisms driving the interactome between microbial metabolism and host-response. If the gut microbiome can influence athletic performance and breakdown, then it is possible that prolonged exercise in an acute situation will increase release of fatty acids for fuel. Free fatty acids are transported from adiposity to muscle via albumin. As free fatty acids are picked up by albumin, tryptophan on the albumin is displaced. Free tryptophan is taken up and transported across the blood brain barrier and is converted to serotonin in the brain. Elevated serotonin results in lethargy and tiredness (fatigue), causing the athlete to slow down. Supplementation with branch-chain amino acids has been proposed to compete with BBB transported and reduce tryptophan entry into brain, and help prevent fatigue. I hypothesize the microbial community structure and function in the gut can serve as a proxy to measure and inform the impact of athletic training regimens on improving athletic performance. Changes in the gut microbiota will have direct impacts on physical and neurological response.

This study will attempt to answer four questions. (1) Does the gut microbiota display distinct community structure in relation to energy availability? (2) Do gut microbiota show significant shifts in community structure with on exercise improvements? (3) Do fermenting gut bacteria co-occur with metabolic markers implicated in a person’s energy production derived from short-chained fatty acids (butyrate) and branch-chained amino acids (isoleucine, leucine and valine)? (4) Does microbial metabolism show co-associations with metabolic markers signaling mental fatigue, e.g., tryptophan and serotonin?

Why This Project?

This study is one of a kind and unlike any other at the moment. Most human-associated microbiome studies focus on disease states. Most human-associated microbiome studies are limited in explaining variability in lifestyle traits. Since most studies are limited in temporal resolution i.e. many subjects with few time points or vice versa, it clouds our understanding of establishment of stable community states and subsequent microbial communities that follow thereafter. As the healthcare moves toward personalized therapy and medicine, sports science studies generally focus on improving outputs i.e. timed-performance, strength and conditioning. Taking into account regimented exercise programs, consistently monitored dietary intake and genes that confer exaggerated anthropomorphic features; athletes could prove to be an “elevated model” in studying systems biology. This has the potential drastically impact the fundamental questions concerning host-response systems and decrease our dependence on mouse models for translational medicine. Furthermore, the introduction of “-omic” research could drastically improve sports-sciences and serve as the next paradigm in athlete development.

About the Researcher

Jarrad Hampton-Marcell is Research Coordinator at Argonne National Laboratory who specializes in microbial ecology. He specifically focuses on how interactions with bacteria shape our ecosystems, built-environments and systemic health. He currently works on projects in utilizing bacteria and sensors to develop smart cities. Under Dr. Jack A. Gilbert, Jarrad has been featured in Chicago Tribune for his work on hospital acquired infections, TIME magazine for using bacteria as a forensic tool and even been recognized by Chicago Crain's "20 in their 20's" list (2015). A native of Chicago and former collegiate athlete, Jarrad's love of bacteria actually began through his love of sports. In addition, Jarrad is currently pursuing his PhD under Dr. Rachel Poretsky and Dr. Craig Horswill at the University of Illinois at Chicago investigating the impact the gut-brain axis in hopes to discover microbes that can remediate or reverse physiological and neurological degradation utilizing athletes as a model.


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