The term “sportomics” may not yet be a household word, but that could change soon if Prof. L.C. Cameron of UNIRIO has his way.
“Sportomics is a way of studying sports in an ex post facto way,” explained Cameron. “The general idea is that we use '-omics' science together with classic biochemical, hematological, and other analysis in a top-down way to look at how physical exertion affects the metabolism. What's unique about sportomics is that we do the analysis in an in-field situation to mimic both the real challenges and the conditions faced during sports situations.”
In Cameron's view, studying the biochemistry of athletic performance requires athletes to provide samples for analysis while they're actually training or playing – not hours later in a laboratory environment after their metabolic state has changed.
“We bring the lab to the athlete. Instead of having the athlete run on a treadmill, we go to the field, to the track, and we move together with the athlete, and take samples during a real athletic situation,” he said. “We're trying to understand the athlete in the conditions that he or she faces during training or competition.”
While the focus of Cameron's work is sports performance, the potential impact goes beyond athletics.
“The metabolism of a high performance athlete is quite similar to the metabolism of a person that has a huge burn injury or a huge trauma or some kind of important cancers,” said Cameron. “So when we study athletes, it give us a perspective on the situations people can face during hypermetabolic states. So I think that we can have both sides of the coin. One side is important for the athlete and for the coach, and for the general public, we can use this information to understand high metabolic states.”
When asked what he seeks to discover through sportomics, Cameron has a frank response: “It's completely open-ended. That’s why it’s so important to have instruments or tools like the XEVO QTof and the SYNAPT HDMI G2-S – because one of the important things we need to do is a lot of non-targeted analysis.”
The Waters systems are part of a collection of instruments L.C. Cameron is assembling at a new laboratory at UNIRIO funded by the Brazilian government. In addition to his own sportomics research, Cameron will make his laboratory available to other university scientists.
While he noted, “I’m not a mass spec person, I’m just a biochemist,” Cameron is passionate about the growing value of mass spectrometry, particularly systems equipped to do imaging.
“I really believe that in the near future, mass spec imaging is going to be as important to science as the microscope was,” he claimed. “Indeed, I think that mass spec imaging is going to rebuild our concept of science.”
For his own work, Cameron hopes that analysis provides practical information to help athletes train more productively and perform better. To that end, he has been working with the Brazilian Olympic Committee as a “distinguished knowledge consultant.”
“The most important thing is to understand what’s going on as a response to certain training, to certain diets, so we can determine the best diet for an athlete, and measure his or her optimal recovery period,” said Cameron.
Cameron and his colleagues have revealed that high-intensity exercises produce transient hyperammonemia and influence the distribution of white blood cells. They have also proven that carbohydrates and glutamine and arginine supplementation can effectively modulate ammonia levels during exercise. More recent work has focused on understanding how arginine influences both ammonemia and the distribution of leukocytes in the blood.
Despite his English last name (his ancestors emigrated to Brazil from Scotland a century ago), L.C. Cameron is, in his words, “102 percent carioca – a person who was born in Rio de Janeiro.” The son of a computer analyst and diplomat and a statistician, he developed an interest in science at an early age.
“I can remember when I was a kid of six or eight years old,” he said. “My godmother kept buying me these laboratory science toys, the ones that allow you to do little chemistry reactions. And a toy microscope. And then I suddenly realized that’s the thing. I was always a scientist.”
He grew up – and remains – a fan of Star Trek. When asked if anyone mentored him during high school and college, he replied, “It’s impossible to pick one person. Because I still have a lot of mentors these days. That’s the beautiful thing about science. You always have people that are more developed than you.”
Cameron attended UNIRIO as an undergraduate, where he earned a bachelor's degree in Nutrition in 1988. He stayed on to study molecular motors, the biological agents that power movements in the body, such as muscular contraction and intercellular cargo transport. After receiving his Master of Science and Ph.D degrees, he augmented his education with additional work during many sabbaticals at the University of Guanajuato, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, The McLaughlin Research Institute for Biomedical Sciences and the University of Virginia.
When he's not in the lab, Cameron enjoys outdoor activities, including biking along the beach, scuba diving, and “riding big motorcycles” with his wife. Still, thoughts of science are never far from his mind.
“Science for me is my work, my love, my job,” said Cameron. “I think about science 24 hours per day. Everything for me is related to science. I’m not the kind of person who can leave the lab and just turn off his brain and move to another field.”
In this course, Jeanette Kwakye, Olympic 100m finalist and Prof. L.C Cameron explore the impact of nutrition on an athlete’s preparation.
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Scientists measure the biochemical changes induced by exercise in 16 cyclists fed a low-carb diet.
A review of sportomics and approaches to understanding metabolic responses to physical stress.
Scientists measure the biochemical changes in the blood samples of 39 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners after high-intensity exercise.