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On Your Marks, Get Set

Posted on by Dr. Francis Collins

NIH Relay Race 2019
It was my job to blow the whistle starting the 36th Annual NIH Institute Challenge Relay on September 18,2019. The relay race involved registered teams of five runners from many NIH institutes, centers, and offices. Each runner completed the same half-mile loop on the NIH campus and then passed the baton to the next team member. All teams included male and female runners with at least two team members of the same sex. It’s always a fun event and an annual reminder of the importance of exercise and staying fit. The race is sponsored by the NIH Recreation and Welfare Association. Credit: NIH

Exercise Releases Brain-Healthy Protein

Posted on by Dr. Francis Collins


We all know that exercise is important for a strong and healthy body. Less appreciated is that exercise seems also to be important for a strong and healthy mind, boosting memory and learning, while possibly delaying age-related cognitive decline [1]. How is this so? Researchers have assembled a growing body of evidence that suggests skeletal muscle cells secrete proteins and other factors into the blood during exercise that have a regenerative effect on the brain.

Now, an NIH-supported study has identified a new biochemical candidate to help explore the muscle-brain connection: a protein secreted by skeletal muscle cells called cathepsin B. The study found that levels of this protein rise in the blood of people who exercise regularly, in this case running on a treadmill. In mice, brain cells treated with the protein also exhibited molecular changes associated with the production of new neurons. Interestingly, the researchers found that the memory boost normally provided by exercise is diminished in mice unable to produce cathepsin B.