San Francisco State University researchers have discovered a new method for testing levels of a tiny, but hugely important, protein -- "AMPK" -- in human muscle cells. "AMPK (5' AMP-activated protein kinase) is the gas gauge that tells each cell in your body if your fuel is too low. We call it the energy sensor of the cell," said Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Jimmy Bagley. Muscles make up 30 to 40 percent of our bodies and are the largest users of sugar and fat for energy. But if people have too much stored fuel -- if they are obese or not exercising, for example -- AMPK is not activated and the body doesn't regulate blood sugar the way it should. Dr. Bagley and his colleagues at the Center for Sport Performance at California State University (CSU) at Fullerton are the first to test the new method on human muscle cells. Their innovative technique was was published online on April 12, 2018 in the Journal of Applied Physiology. The article Is titled “Fiber Type-Specific Analysis of AMPK Isoforms in Human Skeletal Muscle: Advancement in Methods Via Capillary Nanoimmunoassay.” Using human muscle fiber samples provided by Stanford University and CSU Fullerton, researchers in Dr. Bagley's Muscle Physiology Laboratory at San Francisco State manually isolate single muscle fibers, each about half the size of a human hair. With custom microscopes, tweezers, and chemical solutions, they determine fiber type and prepare each cell for protein analysis. They then deliver the cells to CSU Fullerton, where the protein is analyzed using a new machine called Protein Simple. "We can tell what's happening with the AMPK protein in individual muscle cells with a high level of precision," said Dr. Bagley. The new method allows researchers to isolate and examine muscle fibers in much greater detail than was possible before.
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