Brock’s Centre for Bone and Muscle Health marks 10 years of research, community impact

Everyone knows consistent physical activity is key to building and maintaining a healthy body at every age. But it’s hard to move when bones and muscles aren’t working like they should.

“It’s super important that we take care of our bones and muscles, minimizing the effects of aging and inactivity, so we’re able to continue doing all the things we know will bring us many health benefits,” says Associate Professor of Kinesiology Michael Holmes.

Holmes is currently at the helm of a 15-member group of researchers investigating the many intricacies of how bones and muscles do — and don’t — function, sharing their insights in a variety of ways.

Now in its 10th year, Brock University’s Centre for Bone and Muscle Health is celebrating a decade of successes that form the foundation for future growth, says Holmes, Canada Research Chair in Neuromuscular Mechanics and Ergonomics.

“We have a recognized centre housed in an academic institution that is a trusted resource for people seeking health knowledge,” he says. “We’re not interested in recycling old material; the Centre is the place for advances in research and trustworthy, up-to-date information.”

During the past decade, member researchers and their teams have produced a variety of insights and discoveries, including:

  • Rooibos tea contains bioactives — called flavonoids — that stimulate bone cells to produce more bone mineral, so drinking this type of tea may help prevent osteoporosis-related fractures in older adults.
  • Rosemary extract: increases the transport of glucose into muscle cells, working much like drugs used to treat Type 2 diabetes; stops the survival and spread of lung cancer cells and enhances the process of apoptosis, or pre-programmed cell death; and appears to inhibit the process leading up to an allergic reaction.
  • Children’s muscles are not as strong as adult muscles, even factoring into account children’s relatively small size compared to adults, but they can endure movement for a long time, perhaps even more than adults
  • A robot unique to Canadian universities — called a wristbot — housed in the centre that could potentially help people living with multiple sclerosis to strengthen their forearm muscles and improve the neural control of their hands.

In addition to past and current research underway, the Centre’s researchers have created, researched and participated in a number of programs, services and activities, including:

  • CanFlip, a unique gymnastics program geared specifically for children living with cerebral palsy.
  • Identifying a seating system that would enable children and others in wheelchairs to avoid getting hot, sweaty and develop pressure sores — a study in partnership with Niagara Children’s Centre and Niagara Prosthetics and Orthotics.
  • During the Canada Games, testing a video motion capture system created at the Centre to improve its accuracy, with the end goal of developing better athletic monitoring for improved performance and lower injury risk.

In 2021, the Centre for Bone and Muscle Health hosted the fourth Musculoskeletal Health Education Forum, a biennial event that brings together academia and community members to discuss important aspects of bone and muscle health. This event also provides students with the opportunity to present their work.

Throughout its 10-year history, the Centre has supported three Canada Research Chairs (CRCs), nationally recognized experts who contribute knowledge, understanding and solutions to society.

In addition to Holmes, the other current CRC is Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Val Fajardo, who is Tier 2 CRC in Tissue Remodelling and Plasticity throughout the Lifespan. A former CRC is

Professor of Kinesiology Wendy Ward, who held the Tier 2 CRC in Bone and Muscle Development.

Longtime Centre member Nota Klentrou, Professor of Kinesiology and Chair of the Department of Kinesiology, says key to the Centre’s success are research collaborations that cross departments, disciplines and faculties, creating a holistic, big-picture view of bone and muscle health.

“The Centre is a reflection of how collective and collegial research leads to great new research initiatives and strong community connections,” she says. “It is a community of minds that has vitalized particularly the Department of Kinesiology, connecting it to both the Departments of Health Science and Physics, housing and supporting three Canada Research Chairs, and providing mentorship to incoming faculty members.”

With the help of the Centre’s Knowledge Mobilization Officer, Robert Kumar, Holmes says the Centre’s focus over the next few years will be to build bridges with the public through the Centre’s Twitter and Instagram presence and by possibly offering research and consulting services to the wider community.

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