Dr. Kaleen Lavin on STEM-Talk talks about biology, exercise, and aging

STEM-Talk episode 140 is now available featuring Dr. Kaleen Lavin, an IHMC researcher who investigates the molecular mechanisms by which the body adapts and reacts to stressors such as exercise, training, and aging.

Dr. Kaleen Lavin is a research scientist at Florida IHMC. Photo credit: IHMC staff.

At IHMC, Lavin uses computational-biology techniques to understand and improve human health, resilience, and performance. STEM-Talks co-hosts Dr. Ken Ford and Dr. Dawn Kernagis interview Lavin about this work as well as her use of exercise as a countermeasure for a wide range of diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.

The conversation includes an in-depth talk with Lavin about her recent paper that took a comprehensive look at the current literature surrounding the molecular and cellular processes underlying exercise-induced benefits and adaptations in humans. Other topics discussed include:

  • A 2017 study Lavin worked on that took people with Parkinson’s disease and ran them through a high-intensity exercise program and found that not only did the exercise program help people preserve some of their motor function, but also restored some function.
  • Why the reduction in skeletal muscle mass with advancing age is such a serious issue.
  • How the lifelong habit of exercise offers protection against “inflammaging,” which is the experience of chronic low-grade inflammation throughout the aging process.
  • Lavin’s use of algorithms to assess the evidence of gene networks that link muscle building to gene expressions.
  • Lavin’s recent research suggesting that exercising in the past leaves a molecular footprint, a kind of “muscle memory” that can come back to help people as they age, even if people haven’t kept up the habit of exercise.
  • A project that Lavin and an IHMC colleague are undertaking to enhance a tool known as PLIER (pathway-level information extractor) to handle higher dimensions of data.

Lavin is a graduate of Georgetown University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology. She also earned a master’s in sports nutrition and exercise science from Marywood University in Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in human bioenergetics from Ball State University in Indiana.

STEM-Talk is a biweekly podcast that is part of IHMC’s outreach initiatives. IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technologies aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. For more information, visit ihmc.us.