Report on the Skeletal Muscle Researchers Working Group Meeting

Hosted by IMHA on November 29, 2012 at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel, Toronto.


There are well-developed and well-recognized areas of skeletal muscle research in Canada, but the community is siloed. A Strategic Planning workshop for a muscle research policy in Canada was hosted by IMHA in 2002. The workshop group believed that a muscle subgroup committee should be formed but with time this did not develop and there was no champion for the muscle community. In June 2006, delegates from the muscle and MSK rehabilitation communities convened for a direction-setting workshop organized by IMHA entitled Muscles: From Molecules to Mobility. At this workshop physical activity was considered a priority and important for prevention/rehab and training. Again there were talks of developing a muscle research strategy, and although some activities resulted from the meeting these were limited and small, such as the Catalyst grant: Muscle and MSK rehabilitation program funded by IMHA in 2008. In the last 5 years, the impact of skeletal muscle on overall health has become more evident (e.g., myokines), highlighting the need to continue building this research community.

This 2012 muscle meeting was comprised of 17 individuals (not counting CIHR/IMHA staff), including a representative sample of all CIHR-funded muscle researchers in all of CIHR’s themes, and some patient and non-profit organization representatives. The objective of the meeting was to discuss the continued building of the muscle research community towards one that is less siloed. This would enable the community to increase their research capacity by taking advantage of the many upcoming funding opportunities (such the CIHR Signature Initiatives) brought forth by team building and networking, and multi-disciplinary, multi-theme, and multi-disease perspectives.

Meeting Overview

Welcoming Remarks:
Phillip Gardiner, IMHA’s interim Scientific Director, introduced himself to the group, provided an overview of the meeting, and introduced Bill Mills, the meeting facilitator.

Mutual Introductions:
Bill Mills opened the meeting with an ice breaker activity in which he asked the participants to find a partner they did not know. Very few of the muscle researchers around the table knew one another, which highlighted just how siloed this research community really is. During the activity, the pairs interviewed one another and drew a symbol that would visually represent the future of muscle health research in Canada. This exercise served as a catalyst for introductions and to promote participation in the discussions.

Overview of IMHA, muscle research and its funding in Canada:
Phillip Gardiner’s presentation included topics such as the history leading up to the meeting, CIHR expenditures and success rates in IMHA’s mandated research areas including muscle research, muscle research trends, IMHA researcher survey – muscle researcher feedback, and outcomes from the Muscle and MSK Rehabilitation catalyst grant program. Also discussed were NIH initiatives in muscle research going beyond biomedical research, and what could be learned from the Europeans and their initiatives/meetings. This information served to prime the group for the breakout session.

Breakout session:
A breakout session was held, with half the participants in separate rooms. The breakout sessions aimed to discuss the gaps and opportunities facing muscle health research in Canada. The breakout questions were:

  1. What are the gaps / opportunities facing skeletal muscle health research in Canada?
  2. How could these gaps / opportunities be addressed?
  3. What are the top 3 things that CIHR / IMHA could do to improve the state of skeletal muscle health research in Canada?

Meeting Outcomes - Symbols

This symbol highlights that oxygen is required to fuel the brain to think in new ways. The image contains muscle, the consumer (represented by the letter ‘C’), and knowledge translation.

This symbol shows a bridge supported by different pillars (different areas of research that support the same objective). The bridge is bridging the gap between research areas; the pillars look different because each research area is different in many ways.

The symbol represents a change from an atrophied state to renewed strength of the muscle research community.

Other drawn symbols included 1) A glass half / full half empty – representing the many opportunities and challenges that continue to exist, 2) A picture of sad people working individually – happy when working together, 3) A picture of different people and groups coming together to share the same pot of money, 4) A picture of a star representing all the different stakeholders in muscle research (from patients to researchers), showing that despite their distance they are all connected 5) A picture of two muscle researchers ‘getting into bed together’ to ‘conceive’ new ways of doing research and approaching questions.

Meeting Outcomes - Breakout session

After the breakout session one representative from each group presented the outcomes of discussion to the whole group.

Question 1: Top 3 gaps / opportunities facing skeletal muscle health research in Canada:

Breakout Group 1

  1. Don’t know each other – networking
  2. Lack of health services, health policy research-driving impact and KT
  3. Platforms

Breakout Group 2

  1. Lack of a network
  2. Lack of focus on trans/multi-disciplinary approach
  3. Lack of awareness of the importance of muscle in other diseases

Question 2: Top 3 ways how these gaps / opportunities could be addressed:

Breakout Group 1

  1. Network – survey to identify interests, level of awareness – increased communication – regular meetings / Need a champion / Cross fertilization between labs / education-training.
  2. MSK strategy to take advantage of funding opportunities (generated, existing) to address lack of health services, health policy research-driving impact and KT / Creation of opportunities for a network, including patients/consumers.
  3. Bio-banking /Involve patient groups.

Breakout Group 2

  1. Create a community – workshops, symposia, database / IMHA may facilitate partnerships with other relevant institutes (Aging, Cancer, etc.) / Network would facilitate bigger collaborations if you know who is doing work in similar areas of work.
  2. Bringing muscle to the forefront in co-morbid conditions / IMHA may facilitate partnerships with other relevant institutes (Aging, Cancer, etc.) / Database of researchers.
  3. Collaboration with patient networks to foster knowledge dissemination / Need to ‘sell’ the idea of muscle involvement in overall health / Partnerships with relevant institutes / Better KT / public awareness about the impact of muscle disease.

Question 3: Top 3 things that CIHR / IMHA could do to improve the state of skeletal muscle health research in Canada:

Breakout Group 1

  1. Catalyst activities for development of a network
    1. catalyst grant
    2. workshop
    3. consensus conference
    4. summer school
  2. Develop national and international collaborations, partnerships
  3. Opportunities for funding platforms

Breakout Group 2

  1. Lead the foundation of a network
  2. Foundational conference
  3. Increase awareness
    1. identify a champion
    2. Partnerships
    3. Knowledge translation expertise
    4. Patient orientation

Meeting Outcomes - Summary and Going Forward

After hearing back from the two breakout groups, Phillip Gardiner summarized the main points and discussed feasible activities that IMHA could engage in to move things forward.

The summary points included:

  1. There is a need for a consensus from the overall muscle research community; need to start by mobilizing and building a community before moving to specific funding tools.
  2. There is a need to find a champion for the muscle research community, for example, someone with age-related sarcopenia. Since muscle is overshadowed by other conditions, this might be addressed by focusing on sarcopenia in aging and the importance of exercise.
  3. There is a need to involve patients/consumers in any initiatives going forward.
  4. There may be opportunities to partner with other CIHR Institutes.

Summary of gaps identified by breakout groups:

  1. Lack of a network
  2. Lack of health services research
  3. Lack of platforms
  4. Lack of knowledge about muscle role in other diseases

Possible IMHA activities to move forward:

  1. Consensus building workshops
  2. KT expertise
  3. Partnerships

Next Steps:

Larger (but not too big) muscle meeting, with members of the current meeting forming the working group to plan that meeting.

Meeting Outcomes – Select Survey Results

Several days after the meeting, an electronic survey was sent to the participants asking them to provide feedback on the meeting. 14 of the 17 participants responded to the survey. 85.7% and 14.3% strongly agreed or agreed (respectively) that the muscle meeting was a worthwhile experience for them, and 68.2% and 30.8% strongly agreed or agreed (respectively) that the muscle meeting led to meaningful networking with other researchers.

Answers to the question: What is the one thing that stood out for you at this meeting?

  • Concordance among the groups.
  • Everyone was respectful of each other and their interests.
  • Good representation of the muscle scientific community.
  • How many "new" people I met with common interest in muscle research and health.
  • Need for a muscle research forum.
  • Need for stronger collaborations and a muscle network.
  • The breadth of clinical importance of muscle in chronic conditions and in general health.
  • The building of community for research on muscle tissue.
  • There was broad agreement on a number of issues.
  • That there is actually a community researching this! Didn’t know it existed!
  • The lack of coordinated effort (network) in research in this area.
  • The importance of muscle as an anti-inflammatory agent and also the importance of dose-response in exs and PA prescription.
  • Got to know who is doing muscle research across Canada. I was able to network with several investigators who share many common research interests with me.
  • Terrific organization, cooperative discussion, excellence of attendees, thoroughness of discussion, excellent outcomes, perspectives and focused directives for future.

Answers to the question: To which degree do you agree with the following statements?

Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly disagree Do not know/NA Responses
Bill Mills was an enjoyable facilitator 64.3% 28.6% 7.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 14
The mutual introductions exercise was worthwhile 64.3% 14.3% 21.4% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 14
The presentation by Phil Gardiner on muscled research trends was informative 50.0% 42.9% 7.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 14
The breakout group you participated in was balanced with respect to representation from muscle community 71.4% 28.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 14
The breakout questions were appropriate 57.1% 42.9% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 14
You were able to convey your thoughts in the breakout group 85.7% 7.1% 0.0% 7.1% 0.0% 0.0% 14
Everyone in your breakout group had approximately equal time to discuss their views 42.9% 42.9% 7.1% 7.1% 0.0% 0.0% 14
Your breakout group chair was fair and impartial 78.6% 14.3% 0.0% 7.1% 0.0% 0.0% 14
The report back for your group adequately summarized the key points of your breakout discussion 71.4% 28.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 14
The forward steps adequately summarized the key points of the reports back 64.3% 28.6% 7.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 14
You believe that the meeting was useful 85.7% 14.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 14

List of participants

  • Vickie E. Baracos (University of Alberta)

  • Robert Boushel (University of Copenhagen)

  • Lucie Brosseau (University of Ottawa)

  • Judith M. L. Day (National ME/FM Action Network)

  • Richard Debigaré (Université Laval)

  • François Desmeules (University of Montreal)

  • Debbie Feldman (Université de Montréal)

  • Guillaume Grenier (Université de Sherbrooke)

  • Ken Hastings (McGill University)

  • David A. Hood (York University)

  • Sabah N. A. Hussain (McGill University)

  • Rashmi Kothary (University of Ottawa)

  • Brian R. MacIntosh (University of Calgary)

  • Anna Pileggi (AboutFace)

  • Dilson E. Rassier (McGill University)

  • Fabio Rossi (University of British Columbia)

  • Marla Spiegel (Muscular Dystrophy Canada)

  • William John Mills (Facilitator)

  • Phillip Gardiner (Scientific Director – IMHA)

  • Emily Neff (IMHA)

  • Elizabeth Robson (IMHA)

  • Marc Milot (IMHA)

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