Researcher Boosts Metabolism Studies in Lab

By Laura L. Acosta

UTEP News Service

For some people, diet and exercise may not be enough to lose weight or keep it off.

Eating habits, exercise regimens and body composition can all affect weight loss success.

“I see people get so frustrated because in spite of taking time to go to the gym and make adjustments to their eating habits, they are not losing weight,” said Sudip Bajpeyi, Ph.D., assistant professor of kinesiology at UTEP. “It’s not just a simple equation where you move and you lose weight. Of course, physical activity is always better than being a couch potato, but it’s not magic – it’s a science.”

In his new bioenergetics lab in the Health Sciences and Nursing Building, Bajpeyi is investigating the science behind the effects of exercise on lipid metabolism in obese patients and patients with type II diabetes.

His aim is to understand how exercise can help prevent those diseases and the underlying mechanisms.

“Using a muscle biopsy, we can investigate the pathways of how someone with a high fat diet is oxidizing the fat,” Bajpeyi explained. “After exercise, we take another muscle biopsy to see what has changed. This is of great significance because this is where we discover where the problems are and we can focus on the type of exercises that can best help overcome these problems.”

The El Paso Diabetes Association estimates that more than 85,000 people in El Paso have diabetes and as many as 25 percent of them don’t know they have it. Obesity is one of the main causes of diabetes.

Bajpeyi is planning to study how exercise can reverse insulin resistance in Hispanics that is induced by a high-fat diet. He previously discovered that Caucasians become insulin resistant after only three days on a high-fat diet.

“I want to see if it’s fatty foods or a genetic component in Hispanics that can result in obesity or type II diabetes andhow physical activity can really improves these conditions,” Bajpeyi said. Part of his work includes establishing muscle cultures from research participants to distinguish between genetic and environmental factors that influence the effects of diet and exercise on insulin resistance.

While growing up in India, Bajpeyi was fascinated with how the human body functions. His curiosity influenced his decision to study exercise science and energy metabolism, which eventually resulted in his earning a Ph.D. in bioenergetics from East Carolina University in 2006.

After he completed his postdoctoral training at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., Bajpeyi was ready for a new challenge.

In 2012, he accepted a position at UTEP’s College of Health Sciences, where he is setting up the bioenergetics lab in the kinesiology department.

“What brought me to UTEP was the independence and support they gave me,” Bajpeyi said. “There is some sort of satisfaction when you start everything from the ground up.”

His goal is to cultivate a multidisciplinary atmosphere in the lab by recruiting students from kinesiology, biology, clinical laboratory sciences and biomedical engineering to work together and learn from each other’s different perspectives.

Stephanie Anguiano, a clinical laboratory sciences graduate, was the first student to cross disciplines and work in Bajpeyi’s lab. She was the only one of Bajpeyi’s four students who did not have a background in kinesiology. But her knowledge of basic laboratory techniques was useful.

“The kinesiology students wouldn’t have learned things as quickly as they did without seeing her,” Bajpeyi said. “You teach people much more by example than just words.”

But working in the lab also was an eye-opening experience for Anguiano.

“I needed additional research experience and I found this was a great opportunity because I wouldn’t be focusing only on clinical lab science,” Anguiano said. She graduated from UTEP with her bachelor’s degree in May. “I learned different metabolic pathways and I was happy to know that everything I learned in clinical lab sciences, I could apply it somewhere else.”

This summer, Anguiano is participating in a post-baccalaureate program at Baylor College of Medicine, where she is applying that knowledge to her work at the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute. Anguiano credits her awareness of muscles and lipids with helping her understand the neuromuscular junction and lipid metabolism studies that are being conducted at the institute.

In addition to undergraduate research assistants, Bajpeyi is recruiting master’s students and doctoral students from the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Ph.D. program to work in his lab this fall.

Students will assist in muscle biopsy procedures and conduct experiments, which mimic high-fat diet and exercise training in a petri dish by adding fat to a cell culture and electronically stimulating muscle contractions.

Applicants must be dependable, have integrity and a passion for learning.

Bajpeyi is looking for students like Ricardo Rodriguez, a bachelor of kinesiology student who started volunteering in the bioenergetics lab last year. Rodriguez had considered a career in strength and conditioning when he heard Bajpeyi talk about his research during the Foundation of Kinesiology class.

Rodriguez was hooked. He wanted to learn more about the changes the body goes through when someone exercises.

“He gives me a lot of ideas and he allows me to choose what I want to do,” Rodriguez said. “Based on that, I start my research and if I don’t understand, I go ask him. But he doesn’t give me everything digested. I have to go look for it. I think it’s better than just memorizing it.”

Bajpeyi’s lab is a work in progress but he looks forward to advancing his studies by collaborating with his colleagues from UTEP, New Mexico State University and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and continue working with his collaborators from Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and the University of Oslo, Norway. He also hopes to motivate his research assistants to think outside the box.

“We are all interdisciplinary,” Bajpeyi said. “I always tell my students to keep an open mind. That is very important because we always get very narrowly focused on our experiments. It’s very important to be focused on experiments but don’t lose the big picture.”

For information about the bioenergetics lab or research assistant opportunities, contact Bajpeyi at