Funding helps researcher develop 'exercise prescriptions'

Exercise physiologist one of 179 UAlberta researchers receiving $25.7M in NSERC grants to support promising work.


(Edmonton) Understanding how blood vessels function and respond to regular exercise may ultimately help people suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes—even old age.

Advancing the understanding of the control of blood pressure and blood flow to organs and tissues drives Darren DeLorey’s research in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, as he and his team work to determine how regular exercise affects blood vessels.

“We know that regular exercise is good for the cardiovascular system and can prevent chronic disease. But the physiological mechanisms that underlie these effects and the ‘dose’ of exercise needed to produce benefits are poorly understood, so we are working to find out more about how exercise training impacts the cardiovascular system from the cellular to the systems level in the body.

“If we better understand the basic physiological adaptations to regular exercise, we can then develop ‘exercise prescriptions’ for the treatment of diseases and even conditions like aging that are characterized by vascular dysfunction,” said DeLorey, an associate professor of exercise physiology.

DeLorey’s work, along with that of 178 other U of A researchers, is being supported by almost $25.7 million, out of $340 million in funding announced this week by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The U of A is one of more than 70 universities to receive support from the federal research funding agency’s Discovery Grants Program, which this year is funding more than 3,800 researchers, post-doctoral fellows and students across the country.

“A key pillar of our government’s updated Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy is ensuring Canada develops, attracts and retains the world’s most talented researchers,” said Ed Holder, minister of state for science and technology. “Today’s investment in more than 3,800 researchers at 71 universities across the country ensures Canada has a broad base of talented men and women whose research continues to push the boundaries of knowledge, creates jobs and opportunities while improving the quality of life of Canadians.”

“NSERC’s Discovery Grants Program is our flagship,” said B. Mario Pinto, president of NSERC. “It invests in the full range of science and engineering disciplines and thus builds the strong foundation that is a necessary prerequisite for innovation. We’re building on its success with our Discovery Development Grants, because we want to take advantage of the full diversity of insights and ideas across Canada. Complementing our support for discovery research, NSERC’s scholarships and fellowships invest in a new generation of talent and give these brilliant students and fellows the skills and experience to meet the challenges of the future.”

The Discovery Grants, scholarships and fellowships awarded to the U of A by NSERC support research in the faculties of agricultural, life and environmental sciences; engineering; medicine and dentistry; physical education and recreation; and science.

"I am proud and thrilled with our researchers’ success in the 2015 NSERC Discovery Grants Program,” said Lorne Babiuk, vice-president (research) at the U of A. “The impressive results clearly demonstrate the quality, creativity and innovation of research conducted here.

“The Discovery Grants Program is a crucial investment in discovery and knowledge creation, one that specifically recognizes the key importance of basic research and its role in driving future innovation. The program not only helps grow and maintain Canada’s research capability and excellence, but through scholarships and fellowships, also supports doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows—the next generation of scientists. On behalf of the university and our research community, I thank the Canadian government for this vital program and for the strong and sustained commitment to Canadian research,” Babiuk said.

DeLorey’s lab will use a $200,000 Discovery Grant to continue exploring how exercise training and other interventions—such as nutritional changes—affect cardiovascular control and function. The lab’s major focus over the next five-year funding cycle is to investigate how gender and reproductive hormones affect neurovascular adaptations to exercise training.

The Discovery Grant his lab was awarded is vital for the exploration so valuable in uncovering new ideas, DeLorey added. “The program-based funding approach used by NSERC gives you some freedom to explore different questions and take some risks. It also allows me to train undergraduate and graduate students, and their hard work and intellectual curiosity drive our research.”

Under the $25.7-million total funding, 140 U of A researchers received $21.1 million in Discovery Grants. Of that, nearly $18.9 million is earmarked for 125 team or individual projects, 14 grants worth $1.5 million were given for research tools and instruments, and $600,000 was awarded for a physics project.

Discovery Accelerator Supplement grants worth a total of $600,000 were awarded to five U of A scientists, providing additional resources to accelerate progress and maximize the impact of their research programs. The grants are worth $40,000 annually for three years.

As well, there are 39 U of A recipients of scholarships and fellowships worth $3.9 million. Of those, $560,000 worth of two-year scholarships went to 10 recipients and $2.2 million in three-year scholarships was awarded to another 25 students.

As well, $360,000 worth of two-year post-doctoral fellowships worth $45,000 annually went to four U of A recipients.

Read the NSERC news release