PIs: Mark Sorensen (UNC-Chapel Hill), Richard Bilsborrow (UNC-Chapel Hill), Robert Furberg (RTI International), Kelly Houck (UNC-Chapel Hill)
Seed Grant in Social and Biological Determinants of Health
This is an exploratory project to study aging and life history tradeoffs in inflammation in an energetically demanding environment with high physical activity and high microbial burden. Aging is thought to be in part the result of inflammation, resulting in damage to tissues and leading over time to the development of cardiometabolic disease and other diseases of aging. This model of aging as an inflammatory process is based on European and North American populations with low levels of physical activity, high levels of obesity, and a low burden of infection. Recent work from developing contexts indicates frequent low level environmental microbial exposure protects against rising inflammation associated with aging. The roles of body fat and physical activity in inflammation in these environments is not well understood. The project will investigate the relationships between physical activity, adiposity, markers of inflammation and adipokines in an environment with constant, low level microbial as well as infectious disease. We will test the hypothesis that physical activity is associated with lower levels of inflammation and that constant low level commensal microbial exposure protects against aging related increases in inflammatory biomarkers as well as biomarkers produced by adipocytes. This exploratory project will contribute to our knowledge of the biology of aging, life history tradeoffs, and adaptive capacity in humans.