Research facilities in Sport and Health Science

Biomechanics facilities

Biomechanics research laboratory at University of Exeter

  • 3D Motion Capture (portable)
  • Two in-ground force plates
  • Surface/intramuscular electromyography
  • Accelerometers

Sports Science facility at Exeter Chiefs Rugby Club

  • Isokinetic dynamometer

  • In-ground force platforms and motion capture

Musculoskeletal imaging

  • MR research centre with technical support
  • Portable ultrasound imaging setup

Software

  • MRI segmentation and automated image processing (ScanIP)
  • Visual 3D and OpenSim musculoskeletal modelling packages
  • Semi-automated ultrasound tracking (UltraTrack)

Physiology and metabolism laboratories

There are 14 research-dedicated physiology and metabolism laboratories in Richards Building, Baring Court and South Cloisters. These laboratories are primarily used by researchers in the CHERC and Integrative Physiology groups, where we are able to accurately measure physiological and metabolic responses to exercise, inactivity, nutrition and other interventions.

Exercise physiology laboratories

The labs are equipped with:

  • treadmills
  • electronically braked cycle ergometers
  • breath by breath expiratory gas analysers
  • capability for blood and muscle biopsy sampling
  • intravenous infusion of nutrients and stable isotopes of amino acids, fatty acids, and glucose
  • near infra red spectroscopy to measure muscle oxygenation
  • electromyography

Resting metabolism laboratories

We have two single and one double resting metabolism laboratories with doppler ultrasound, and cortex metabolic cart. These labs have capability for:

  • bed rest and limb immobilization studies
  • nutritional interventions
  • blood and muscle biopsy sampling
  • arteriovenous forearm balance
  • intravenous infusion of nutrients and stable isotopes of amino acids, fatty acids, and glucose.

Food preparation facilities

  • A metabolic kitchen and food storage for preparation of acute or prolonged dietary/supplement interventions and 2H2O and/or H218O methods.
  • -80 freezer room for sample storage.

Gym

State of the art gym with power rack, free weights, unilateral leg press, biodex dynamometer, 3 atom watt bikes, eccentric ergometer, and capability for various exercise training protocols.

Neuromuscular function laboratories

The neuromuscular function laboratories are equipped with isokinetic dynamometers, and a custom-built isometric dynamometer for assessment of upper and lower limb muscle function.

In addition, we are able to evoke involuntary contractions using cutaneous electrical stimulation or magnetic stimulation of the appropriate peripheral nerves and transcranial magnetic stimulation of the relevant areas of the motor cortex. The evoked action potentials (electromyography), muscle twitches (dynamometers and force transducers) and movements (kinetics – motion analysis) are analysed to reveal the involvement of the peripheral, spinal and supraspinal mechanisms in motor control. These measurements may be correlated with muscle volume and cross-sectional area determined through MRI.

Vascular physiology laboratories

The vascular physiology laboratories are equipped with doppler ultrasound, transcranial doppler ultrasound, laser doppler flowmetry and iontophoresis to allow measurement of micro- and macro-vascular function.

Body composition laboratory

This facility enables the analysis of body composition in relation to physical activity patterns, energy expenditure and diet. Body composition data are collected routinely through anthropometry, air displacement plethysmography (Bodpod), underwater weighing, and bioimpedance. Data collected is regularly supplemented using DEXA and MR techniques.

DEXA laboratory

The dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) laboratory allows the investigation of bone health and its relationship to exercise. It houses a Lunar Prodigy DEXA scanner. Current research is using MRI, DEXA, biochemical and biomechanical analyses to gain insights into bone health.

Magnetic resonance imaging

Located at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital on Wonford Rd, just a short walk from the St Luke’s campus, this £20m imaging facility includes a including a Siemens 3T Magnetom Prisma MRI scanner capable of dynamic imaging of physiological processes, including spectroscopy, structural scans, diffusion tensor imaging, arterial spin labelling and functional MRI. The MR scanner is co-located with a research dedicated PET-CT facility.

MRI simulation laboratory

Housed within this laboratory is a full-size reproduction of an MRI scanner. This facility allows researchers to familiarize their research subjects with the MRI environment, and allows them to make measurements in a simulated MRI environment that cannot be made in the MRI itself.

Psychology, skill acquisition and virtual reality facilities

Skill Acquisition lab 

  • Mobile eye trackers (Tobii, SMI, ASL and Pupil Labs)
  • Psychophysiological measurement (e.g. Physioflow)
  • Sporting tasks (including Driving simulator and 2.5 x 5m putting green)
  • Neurotracker (working memory training) facilities

Virtual Reality lab 

  • VR headsets (Vive) with integrated eye tracking
  • AR headsets (Dreamworld)

Object Interaction lab 

  • 8-camera Optitrak Flex 13 motion tracking system,
  • a 120-hz Pupil lab head-mounted eyetracker,
  • an Oculus Rift headset for immersive augmented reality,
  • PLATO shutter goggles for the control of visual feedback,
  • ATI 6-axis force sensors
  • Ultimaker 3D printer

Psychology and Ageing lab

  • Portable force plates(AMTI Accusway )
  • Galvanic vestibular stimulation (Digitimer DS5)
  • VR headset with integrated gaze tracking (Vive)
  • Motion capture (Vicon)
  • Raised walking platform

Ex-vivo biochemistry laboratories

Analytical chemistry

For determination of nutrients such as nitrate, caffeine and amino acids, using gas-phase chemiluminescence and high performance liquid chromatography. Facilities include:

  • Sievers chemiluminescence Nitric oxide analyser
  • Perkin Elmer Flexar FL HPLC analyser

Mitochondrial bioenergetics

Interrogating mitochondrial energetics in muscle tissue, cell lines, and nematode worms.

  • Oroboros High Resolution Respirometer
  • Seahorse Extracellular Flux analyser

Histology and Western blot

Antibody labelling techniques for protein analysis in tissue homogenates and sectioned tissue.

  • Thermo Cryostar cryostat
  • BioRad Chemidoc Western Blot scanner

Worm laboratory

Husbandry of Caenorhabditis elegans. A small nematode, genetically similar to humans, used as a model organism to investigate the effects of drugs, nutrients and external stimuli on the worms’ metabolism and function.

  • Microtracker to measure function
  • Space station

Cell / tissue culture

Used for the extraction of primary myoblasts, and culturing immortalised cell lines, to investigate effects of interventions such as nutritional supplementation.

  • Class II microbiological safety cabinet
  • Fluorescent microscope
  • Hypoxic environmental chamber

DNA/RNA preparation

This lab is used for extraction and amplification of 16S DNA for microbiome studies, and of mRNA from muscle to determine gene expression.

  • Thermal cycler
  • Qubit fluorometer

Platereader lab

Used for quantification of serum proteins and enzymes, e.g. markers of bone turnover, and muscle metabolites such as creatine phosphate.

  • ELISA assays, Perkin Elmer Enspire platereader
  • Fluoroscan fluorescence platereader