“Focus on what you are passionate about! What makes a lion tick, what causes muscle weakness? How can we learn and apply these discoveries to human performance and disease.” – Tim Noakes
This website is for you, the reader. Many times scientists struggle to communicate their research to the outside world, with many great discoveries (no matter how small) going lost in translation. We hope that you find this information interesting and valuable.
The aims of this site are:
- to translate our research into an easy-to-understand platform for all to understand, grasp and enjoy,
- to honour those who played and continue to play an important part in our research venture,
- to serve as an educational platform, and
- to promote our expertise and services.
Origin of the MyoLab
It all started when I met with Prof. Tim Noakes on a particular sunny day in his office at the Sport Science Institute of South Africa, Cape Town. We chatted about the need for better research and understanding of muscle, and how it works. It was at that moment that the idea of a Myology Laboratory was born. A lab where there was no limits, where no idea was considered mediocre. Tim encouraged me to explore the mysteries of wild animals and how we can learn from them. He inspired me to ‘go for it’, to find the best ways to study muscle function. But most importantly, to find people that are as passionate about science to join me in this research venture.
Every child dreams of being the strongest and fastest. Unfortunately, I did not have the body type to become a world-class rugby player. Never did I think that I would become a scientist studying what makes athletes great, or study the muscles of lions, cheetahs, wildebeest and baboons. Never could I foresee using these animals as models to study global epidemics (obesity and diabetes) or rare exercise related diseases (exertional heatstroke and capture myopathy). And, who would have thought I would compete nationally and become provincial coach in gymnastics! My story began about 40 years ago…
The younger years…
I was born in De Doorns situated in the beautiful Hex River Valley. It’s one of those typical country towns, where city folk today flock to relax and actually see stars. After my primary education, I went to boarding school and matriculated from Paarl Boys’ High in 1993. From the age of 14, I excelled at gymnastics and competed nationally. After school, I enrolled for a BSc at Stellenbosch University, majoring in Biochemistry and Physiology, after which I received a BSc Honours in Biochemistry. During my studies, I managed to integrate the knowledge of muscle physiology, adaptation and developmental physiology with gymnastics coaching. This proved valuable as it put theory into practice.
The post grad years…
My MSc focussed primarily on skeletal muscle using human and rat exercise models. To gain the skills for my studies, I was fortunate to spend time at a number of renowned institutions, learning techniques in human exercise testing, dissecting and typing single muscle fibres (Copenhagen Muscle Research Centre), and muscle histology and enzyme kinetics (Swedish Agricultural University, Uppsala). Upon my return to South Africa, I was able to successfully establish these techniques.
One day, the Animal Sciences department at the University of Stellenbosch contacted me to develop some techniques to study meat quality of wild animals. That triggered my interest for wild animal physiology. It was extremely exciting, as I got to work with ostriches, crocodiles and many wild antelope and discovered that there is so little we know about their physiology, especially muscle.
In 2007, my wife and I relocated to the Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Research Unit (ESSM), University of Cape Town to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship. Our research group primarily focused on diabetes, specifically glucose transporter expression, mitochondrial biogenesis and the regulation thereof by exercise. I gained some experience molecular DNA analyses and was able to transfer some skills from my past experiences.
After my post doc, I was appointed senior researcher at ESSM. I was allowed to pursue and develop my own research field. My mission was to establish a unique laboratory that could study skeletal muscle contraction, structure and metabolism, on gross and cellular level. This vision become reality and I currently serve as the coordinator of this unique myology laboratory.
My academic career has led me to study the most interesting topics applicable to modern diseases and challenges. I have been privileged to be mentored by the world’s finest (Kathy Myburgh, Tim. Noakes, Bengt Saltin, Birgitta Essén-Gustavsson, Edward Ojuka, Jesper Andersen, to name but a few) and excited to continue in their footsteps with my collaborators as we work together towards changing the world.
Some of the places I was fortunate to visit…