Understanding the Role of Vitamin D in Muscle Adaptation

Research Opportunity
PhD, Masters by Research, Honours
Number of Honour Places Available
Medicine and Radiology
Western Health
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Professor Alan Hayes hayes.a@unimelb.edu.au Personal web page
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Professor Gustavo Duque gustavo.duque@unimelb.edu.au Personal web page

Project Details

Vitamin D deficiency is common place and older individuals in particular suffer fatigue and muscle weakness as a result. The resultant low bone mineral density and increased falls risk makes fractures and subsequent disability a major consequence. While supplementation is able to reverse this, there is evidence that increasing levels too quickly increases the risks of falls and fractures, possibly due to direct effects of vitamin D on muscle. Indeed, we have recent data that supports a differential role for vitamin D in regulating muscle strength and recovery from fatigue. Interestingly, our most recent study suggests that vitamin D may sensitise skeletal muscles to the effects of exercise. As such it may be important to include activity and exercise with any vitamin D supplementation regime. We aim to further explore this effect with a multifaceted approach to complement our current human trials.

This study aims to understand the complex interplay of vitamin D with muscle function. We will feed animals diets containing different levels of vitamin D, with and without exercise, to deplete, replete and increase vitamin D levels beyond usual physiological levels. At the same time, key enzymes implicated in the sensitizing effect and the vitamin D hormone-muscle molecular pathways will be knocked down or overexpressed to elucidate potential mechanisms of action. Analysis of muscle will be undertaken at the molecular, mitochondrial, single fibre and whole muscle level to provide a complete picture of the direct effects of vitamin D on skeletal muscle. This project will include the use of animal exercise models and dietary supplementation, animal surgery, recombinant DNA purification and protein purification, the transfection of muscles in vivo, isolation and analysis of single muscle fibres, ex vivo muscle testing, Western blotting, immunohistochemistry, microscopy and enzyme activity assays.

School Research Themes


Research Opportunities

PhD, Masters by Research, Honours
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.


Medicine and Radiology

Research Node

Western Health

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