The Metabolic Research Group comprises academics within the School of Environmental and Life Sciences who have interests in studying metabolism at the cellular, tissue and body levels. Research focuses on measuring alterations to homeostasis at the cellular level in the case of bacteria and the whole body in relation to responding to external stimuli.

The current major focus for this group is the role of amino acids in recovery from exercise, injury and illness. The human body sustains a very complex and stable homeostasis. The body responds to exercise and pathogenic challenges via a catabolic response. The catabolic response involves the breakdown and turnover of muscle protein stores to meet the body's demand. This research seeks to establish an understanding of amino acid turnover and losses via urine excretion and sweat. This is done with a view of developing strategies for minimising muscle breakdown via directed amino acid supplementation. The fatigue and pain associated with muscle soreness following exercise could be intrinsically linked to excessive turnover of the muscle protein stores and in some cases, breakdown of structural proteins when excessive demands are made.


The objective of the group are twofold:

  1. To undertake research on the metabolic responses to environmental challenges using metabolomics approaches. In brief, this involves taking biochemical snapshots of organic small molecule composition from cytoplasmic, cell membrane, cell wall and exudate fractions following exposure to various environmental challenges (e.g. pH, temperature, antibiotics). The profiles of metabolite compositions between treatments are then compared using advanced multivariate statistics.
  2. To examine changes in metabolic homeostasis in humans suffering from various conditions or subjected to a range of exercise regimes. This is achieved by measuring small organic molecular profiles in urine, blood plasma and sweat, to determine potential responses or anomalies associated with various states of ill health or following exercise. The aim is specifically to understand metabolic turnover and losses to develop amino acid-based nutraceuticals that will minimise muscle protein breakdown. A system of metabolic profiling will be developed to produce nutraceuticals that match the exercise specific amino acid losses.

Examples of current project

  • Phenotypic variations in the human population for amino acid homeostasis.
  • Modelling of amino acid turnover in human and equine models to determine specific amino acids that might be in high demand for supply during periods of high intensity exercise, injury and illness.
  • The impacts of exercise-specific amino acid losses via sweat and urine on muscle catabolism and body homeostasis.
  • The role of red blood cells in inter-organ transport of amino acids.
  • The relationships between electrolyte losses and amino acids in sweat.

Research outcomes

Members of the group have been very successful in gaining national competitive research grants and industry funding.

The research has resulted in numerous publications in high impact journals ranging in the fields of microbiology, biochemistry, clinical sciences and exercise physiology.

Group members

Associate Professor Ben Dascombe

Associate Professor
School of Environmental and Life Sciences

Emeritus Professor Tim Roberts

Emeritus Professor
School of Environmental and Life Sciences

Dr Margaret MacDonald

Honorary Associate Lecturer
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Dr Johan Gottfries

Dr Johan Gottfries

University Gothenburg, Sweden

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.