Top students of some of the best university-funded labs across the country were invited to present their research in competition with one another. Ducharme tied for first place with one other student researcher, the Northwest regional winner Emily Larson, after competing and excelling in an extremely competitive process.
“Representing UNM in the President's Cup competition at the 2023 American College of Sports Medicine national meeting was a truly memorable experience,” Ducharme said.
UNM is a member of the Southwest Chapter of ACSM, giving Ducharme a chance to submit an expanded abstract on his research topic for consideration to eventually compete at the President’s Cup competition (“Stimulated muscle contractions regulate membrane-bound and soluble TLR4 to prevent LPS-Induced signaling and myotube atrophy in skeletal muscle cells.)
Ducharme studied how exercise impacts a specific receptor (TLR4) that is expressed throughout the body and is associated with inflammation and muscle loss. By simulating skeletal muscle contractions in mouse muscle cells, Ducharme found an increase in the soluble version of that receptor (sTLR4). His preliminary work in humans suggests that 60 minutes of moderate-intensity cycling can also increase sTLR4.
It may seem like a small, confusing set of letters, but this UNM researcher discovered invaluable impacts on the body. By decreasing TLR4 and increasing sTLR4, this may be a potential therapy to reduce inflammation and muscle loss. Ducharme says although there is more research to be done, this finding could have positive impacts for developing interventions for conditions associated with muscle loss and inflammation such as diabetes, sarcopenia, and cancer cachexia.
“I believe this is just the start of our research on Toll-like receptor 4 and muscle atrophy, and I am excited to pursue this line of research in the future,” Ducharme said. “My goal is to hopefully one day be able to see our research applied to those afflicted with muscle wasting conditions and help make a difference in their lives.”
Prior to the national stage, Ducharme took this work to be scored and judged by the Southwest ACSM, in October 2022 in California. His 10-minute presentation led him to beat out other regional finalists from California, Hawaii, Nevada, Utah and Arizona.
In addition to earning the Dr. Gail Butterfield Student award for the graduate student research competition, he was selected to represent the Southwest ACSM at the President’s Cup, receiving a $1,200 travel award.
Ducharme conducted additional muscle-atrophy experiments with his hypothesis and showcased it against 11 other regional student representatives at the national competition, where he eventually tied for the top prize.
He says he could not have done it without his advisor and COEHS Professor Dr. Mike Deyhle.
“This is thanks to the invaluable mentorship of the Exercise Science Faculty, especially Dr. Michael Deyhle, my advisor. I am immensely grateful for their guidance and support, without which this achievement would not have been possible,” Ducharme said.
“Jeremy’s success was helped by the many great mentors (including those of the UNM Exercise Science Faculty), by his fellow students, but most of all by his preparedness, dedication, hard work and commitment to his goals,” Deyhle said.
In addition to a cash prize and plaque, just one week later, Ducharme found out that the manuscript that contained this work was accepted for publication at the American Journal of Physiology- Cell Physiology, one of the top journals in the Exercise Science field.
“As his dissertation chair, it is extremely gratifying to see the quality of Jeremy’s work recognized at a regional and national level,” Deyhle said. “Louis Pasteur, a great scientist of the 19th century is credited with saying: ‘In fields of observation, chance only favors the prepared mind.’ I believe Jeremy Ducharme began his dissertation project with a “prepared mind”, which contributed to making his dissertation project a great success.”
These accomplishments led Ducharme to a successful dissertation defense, and a full-time job offer as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Florida.
“I am eager to continue to dive into the world of muscle physiology and have started working as a Postdoctoral Associate studying cancer-induced muscle loss (cancer cachexia) under the guidance of Dr. Andrew Judge at the University of Florida,” Ducharme said.