WVU doctoral candidate wins 2 national awards

Research may help slow muscle loss in the elderly

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Yan Wang, a doctoral candidate in exercise physiology at West Virginia University, is the recipient of two national academic awards. The American Physiological Society and the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine have both recognized Wang for his medical research in muscle biology.

Wang will receive both the 2009 Carolyn tum Suden/ Francis A. Hellebrandt Professional Opportunity Award and the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine (SEBM) Young Investigator Award at the Experimental Biology 2009 meeting in New Orleans in April.  Wang will also present a research abstract at the meeting.

Wang’s research investigates the mechanism of how aging affects skeletal muscle and what people can do to avoid, or ease, loss of muscle mass and function as a result of aging. 
“The ultimate goal of our research is to provide clues and applicable information for clinical intervention of the deterioration of muscle function associated with aging or metabolic abnormalities, such as diabetes,” Wang said.

Wang is a native of Shenyang, China. He was a junior faculty member and clinician at China Medical University. Wang said his experience in basic research was limited before he came to WVU in 2004.

“I had a pretty hard time keeping up with the Ph.D. study at the beginning, but I believe in my potential and hard work,” Wang said. “With the great support of Dr. Stephen Alway, who is a very productive and established scientist in muscle physiology, as well as support from others at WVU, I’ve been transforming myself from a naïve beginner to a confident and enthusiastic junior scientist during the past four and a half years.”

Stephen Alway, Ph.D., is chair of WVU Exercise Physiology and director of the Laboratory of Muscle Biology and Sarcopenia.  He said Wang’s research found that M-cadherin, a membrane protein that is known to be important for muscle stem cells to promote muscle growth and repair, also has a previously unidentified role in protecting the stem cells from cell death.

“This a is very important observation and is especially applicable to muscles of elderly persons, where muscle cells die and muscle mass and strength are lost rapidly, especially over the age of 65,” Alway said.  

According to Alway, the loss of muscle function contributes to decreased independence and quality of life in the elderly. 

“I believe that Yan is on his way to an outstanding scientific career and that these awards will only be the beginning of many that he will receive over the course of his scientific career,” Alway said.

“It is a great honor for me to be selected to receive these two awards by the award committees, which are composed of excellent scientists from different areas of biomedical sciences,” Wang said.

For information on the WVU School of Medicine Department of Physiology and Pharmacology see http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/physio/

For information about the Experimental Biology 2009 meeting see http://www.eb2009.org/


For more information:
Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
EL: 02-05-09

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