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Boston Scientist Takes His Lab on the Road

Cyclist and Clinical Investigator Will Conduct HIV Research During the Toughest Cycling Race in the World

May 23, 2012

The Race Across America (RAAM), which begins on June 16th in Oceanside, CA and ends in Annapolis, MD, has been called the toughest bicycle race in the world. But Patrick Autissier, a scientific researcher at Boston College and racer, has decided to add a scientific component to the physical challenge of RAAM.

Autissier is a member of Team4HIVHope, a four-man relay team. Two of its members, Steven Berveling of Sydney, Australia and Jim Williams of New York are living with HIV. Autissier and Glenn Druery of Sydney, Australia do not have HIV. With this combination of racers, Autissier saw an opportunity to take his lab on the road. With the help of Dr. Rob Miller -- who is the team doctor -- he will be taking blood draws each day from each racer, and shipping them back to his lab in Boston.

"The aim of this study," Autissier says, "is to discover the effects of endurance athletics on both HIV-positive and -negative individuals and comparing the two." He will measure lymphocyte and monocyte subsets changes during RAAM. "No scientific studies have ever been done in a context of such an extreme race," he adds. "Changes in the immune system and the blood parameters will probably be significant." A baseline before the race and the recovery period will be measured as well, to see how fast or slow the immune system and the blood parameters go back to normal.

The hypothesis is that, despite the high level of physical activity that all four cyclists will undergo during the Race Across America, there will be no significant differences between the immune system of the two HIV-positive athletes, compared to the two HIV-negative athletes.

"Physical activity has always been known to have positive effects on people's health and mind," says Autissier. "From reducing stress level to decreasing risks associated with stroke and obesity, daily exercise is good for our general health and should be mandatory for everyone. Importantly, not only healthy people must exercise routinely, but also people with chronic diseases like cancer or HIV/AIDS. For these people, drug treatment is only one part of the solution. Exercise and healthy diet must also be part of the equation."

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More News on HIV/AIDS Bike Rides

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Race Across America: Team4HIV Hope Cycles to Raise Awareness and to Win


Team 4 HIV Hope

The Race Across America is a bicycle race in which cyclists ride 3,000 miles/4,800km from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md., in June each year. There is about 110,000 feet of climbing involved. This year for relay teams begins on June 18.

RAAM is not a stage race such as the Tour de France. In RAAM, there is only one stage: start to finish. It is essentially a time trial, but a very long one! Challenges include heat, deserts, violent winds, thunderstorms, riding at night, sleep deprivation, muscle injuries and mental acuity. And for the HIV-positive riders, there are more health challenges. An HIV-trained nurse is part of their crew.

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