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Robert Coker

Credit: 
Robert Coker
Research Interests: 

My primary research initiatives have been directed at the mitigation of metabolic stress under clinical conditions such as obesity, sarcopenia and alcohol use disorder.

Credit: 
Robert Coker
Robert H. Coker
Associate Professor of Biology; Nutritional and Exercise Physiology
Institute of Arctic Biology
Office: 
323D Margaret Murie Building
907 474-6701
Lab: 
318 Molecular Biology Lab Suite
907-474-6701
Postal Address: 
Institute of Arctic Biology
PO Box 757000
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000
  • Visiting Fellow in Clinical Physiology, Bispebjerg Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark, 1998-1999
  • Postdoctoral Fellow in Molecular Physiology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, 1995-1998
  • Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology, University of Mississippi, University, MS, 1991-1995          
  • M.Ed. in Physical Education, North Georgia College, Dahlonega, GA, 1988-1989
  • B.S. in Physical Education, North Georgia College, Dahlonega, GA, 1982-1986
  • Associate Professor (tenured), Department of Biology and Wildlife, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 2013-present
  • Principal Investigator, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2013-present
  • Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Geriatrics, UAMS, Little Rock, AR, 2013-present
  • Co-Owner and Managing Partner, Essential Blends, LLC, Fairbanks, AK 2013-present
  • Research Health Scientist, Veterans Healthcare System, Little Rock, AR, 2008-2010
  • Consultant, Healthspan Solutions, LLC, Little Rock, AR 2007-2011  
  • Associate Professor (tenured), Department of Geriatrics, UAMS, Little Rock, AR, 2007-2013
  • Consultant, Pfizer Global Research and Development, New London, CT, 2004-2010.
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Geriatrics, UAMS, Little Rock, AR, 2001-2007.          
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Exercise Science, University of Mississippi, University, MS, 1999-2001.
  • Exercise Physiologist, Methodist Hospitals of Memphis, Memphis, TN, 1995-1999.

2017

Coker, R.H., Robinette, L. & Kern, P.A., 2017. Minimal Alteration in Muscle Lipid Genes Following Stabilized Weight Loss. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, [Epub ahead of print].
Coker, R.H. & Wolfe, R.R., 2017. Weight loss strategies in the elderly: a clinical conundrum. Obesity, [Epub ahead of print].

2016

Coker, R.H. et al., 2016. Metabolic Responses to the Yukon Arctic Ultra: Longest and Coldest in the World. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 49(2), pp.357-362.

2015

Keshel, T.E. & Coker, R.H., 2015. Exercise Training and Insulin Resistance: A Current Review. Journal of Obesity and Weight Loss Therapy, 5(Suppl 5), pp. S5-003.

2014

Pages

  • Alaska Innovation Award, Office of Intellectual Property and Commercialization, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK
  • Clinical Research Success Award, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR 
  • Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, Indianapolis, IN
  • Graduate Honors Fellowship, University of Mississippi
  • Graduate Scholarship Award, Mississippi Joint Conference on Aging
  • Graduate Honors Award, University of Mississippi
  • American College of Sports Medicine, Fellow
  • American Diabetes Association
  • The Obesity Society

Grants in Review

Department of Defense

United States Special Operations Command                                       04/01/2018-03/31/2021

Sex differences in occupational resilience: application of stable isotope measurements for protein synthesis and skeletal muscle during field operations.

(Co-PIs: Coker and Ruby)

The specific aim of this project series is to determine the impacts of operational stress on novel markers of protein synthesis and skeletal muscle health in males and females.

 

National Institutes of Health                                                                 03/01/2018-02/28/2020

National Institute of Aging Small Business Innovations in Research Phase II Grant (R44)

Muscle Preservation during Weight Loss in the Elderly. (PI: Coker) 

The overriding goal of this project is to determine the loss of fat mass as compared to lean body mass during CRWL in elderly individuals using a proprietary meal replacement as the primary nutritional source.

 

National Institutes of Health R21
National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism                            01/01/2018-12/31/2020

Nutritional Therapy for Alcohol Use Disorder. (PI Coker)

The focus of this proposal is directed towards the evaluation of a nutritional therapy specifically designed to decrease hepatic steatosis, maintain lean body mass, and improve physical function in individuals with alcohol use disorder.

Federal Emergency Management Association                                    11/01/2017-10/31/2019

Optimizing pre-season preparedness of wildland firefighters: mitigation strategies to reduce musculoskeletal and heat related injury risk. (Co-PIs: Coker and Ruby)

The purpose of this project series is to identify individuals who are at greater risk for injuries, determine job specific aerobic fitness, and characterize seasonal musculoskeletal changes in wildland firefighters.

 

Active Grants

National Institutes of Health                                                                

National Institute of Aging Small Business Technology Transfer Phase II Grant (R42AG050375)

(PI: Wolfe; Managing Partner: Coker RH). While over 2,000 STTR grants have been funded throughout the United States, this is the first NIH STTR grant ever funded in the state of Alaska.

Nutritional Therapy in Elderly Individuals with Heart Failure

This project will evaluate the influence of an amino acid formulation called UpBeat that is designed promote physical function and quality of life in older individuals with heart failure.

 

BUILD-funded Biomedical Learning and Student Training (BLaST) Curriculum Development Grant; Exercise Physiology Laboratory Topics (PI Coker RH)

The objective of this award is focused on providing students with “hands-on” experience in the use of indirect calorimetry systems and dual x-ray absorptiometry scanners as part of BIOL 412.

 

IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence: Alaska (INBRE) Curriculum Development Project Exercise Physiology Laboratory Course​ (339943-60212 - FIN016) (PI Coker)

The goal of the project is to develop laboratory experiences linked to the measurement of mitochondrial function and tissue lipid in humans.

 

BLaST 2016 Faculty Pilot Project                                                       

Influence of SkiKu on Resilience in Alaska Native Youth (PI Coker RH)

This proposal utilizes the measurement of physical activity (using state-of-the-art Actigraph technology) and the assessment of behavioral health (culturally appropriate Youth Community Protective Factors Scale) so that we can examine the interactive relationships between “being out” and promoting resilience in Alaska Native youth.

 

United States Forest Service; National Technology and Development Center

Metabolic Resilience in Wildland Firefighters (PI Coker RH)

The objective of this study is to evaluate pre- and post-fire season changes in body composition (lean mass, fat mass, and bone mineral density), tissue lipid and metabolic health in Alaskan local and hot-shot wildland firefighters.

 

National Institutes of Health                                                                

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Small Business Innovations in Research (R43 AG051298-01) (PI: Wolfe; LCI and Managing Partner: Coker RH); This was the first NIH R43 ever awarded through UAF, and now eligible for a R44 grant.

Muscle Preservation during Weight Loss in Older, Overweight Individuals

This study will evaluate the impact of a meal replacement on the loss of adipose tissue and the preservation of muscle during caloric restriction-induced weight loss in older, obese individuals.

 

National Institutes of Health                                                                

National Institute of Aging Small Business Technology Transfer Phase I Grant (R41AG050375)

(PI: Wolfe; Managing Partner: Coker RH)

Nutritional Therapy in Elderly with Heart Failure

This project will develop a nutritional beverage to improve physical function in elderly individuals with heart failure. The Phase I project will formulate the beverage and perform the necessary studies to prepare for a Phase II randomized clinical trial related to this initiative.

 

Equipment Grants

 

Office of the Provost- University of Alaska Fairbanks

Instructional Equipment Award (PI Coker RH)

This equipment award provided our faculty with a Parvomedics Indirect Calorimetry System that is specifically designed to measure respiratory gas exchange and energy expenditures in real time. It will be used in conjunction with BIOL 412/612 and BIOL 393 as well as incorporated into the aims of current research initiatives.

 

National Institutes of Health: Diversity Program Consortium

BLaST Equipment Grant (PI Coker RH)

The current grant provides an electronically braked cycle ergometer than be used in conjunction with the Parvomedics Indirect Calorimetry System indirect calorimetry system. These devices and/or pieces of instrumentation will be used in the BIOL 412/612 and BIOL 393.

 

Conference Grants

TREND and Alaska EPSCoR                                                               

Enhancing Economic Development and SBIR/STTR Performance (PI Coker RH)

The purpose of this grant is to establish an Economic and Biotechnology Development Board in Alaska and to offer a workshop on preparing competitive SBIR and STTR proposals. Six SBIR proposals were submitted to various agencies from UAF, and USDA SBIR was funded.

Held in the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks

Alaska Chapter of American College of Sports Medicine                

Enhancing Physical Activity and Nutrition in the Teenage and Adult (PI Coker RH)

The purpose of this regional conference was focused on leveraging and planning partnerships to improve physical activity in youth that translate into adulthood.

Held at the University of Alaska Anchorage

Grants Reviewed but not Funded

National Aeronautics and Space Administration                    

IOS Physiological Mechanisms and Biomechanics

Metabolic Suppression in a Large Hibernator (Toien, O: PI) (Co-I Coker)

This proposal is focused on broadening our understanding of the long-term metabolic flexibility in hibernating bears. We proposed to study the influence of hibernation on mitochondrial respiration and energy demand, and the link between risk factors related to metabolic disease.

National Institutes of Health; Alaska INBRE

Nutritional Formulation for Alcohol Rehabilitation (Coker RH: PI)

The objective of this proposal was to evaluate the effectiveness of proprietary nutritional therapy on hepatic steatosis individuals with mild to moderate alcohol use disorder.

National Science Foundation                          

RII Track 2 FEC: Advancing Neurotechnology and Research Infrastructure in Alaska and Kansas through Research, Education and Commercialization of Devices for Real-Time Monitoring (Drew PI; Coker Co-I).

The long-term goal of this proposal is focused on the development of a new generation of separation-based sensors for monitoring intercellular signaling, and to foster a pipeline of diversity directed at the translation of this technology into commercialization.

National Institutes of Health                                                                

National Institute on Aging Multi-Site R01 (PI: Coker)

Functional Benefits of Weight Loss in the Elderly

This study is designed to evaluate the influence of weight loss on functional outcomes and quality of life in the elderly when skeletal muscle is preserved. Headquartered in Alaska, we received special permission to exceed the NIH cap on this proposal, and it involved 7 academic institutions across the United States.

National Institutes of Health

National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) R21 (PI: Coker)

Therapeutic Nutirtion for Alcohol Rehabilitation

This proposal was written to support an NIH R21 project directed at the preservation of muscle mass and reduction of hepatic steatosis in individuals with alcohol use disorder.

National Institutes of Health (NIA) R15 (PI: Coker)

Muscle Preservation during Weight Loss in Older, Overweight Individuals

This proposal was focused on providing clinical research opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students in the field of sarcopenic obesity.

National Institutes of Health

National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) R43 (LCI: Coker)

Nutritional Formulation for Alcohol Rehabilitation

This objective of this study was focused on the influence of a patent protected nutritional formulation on muscle protein synthesis in individuals recovering from alcohol use disorder. This proposal received an “intent to fund” but was ultimately not awarded this round.

National Institutes of Health FAST TRACK (LCI: Coker) First and Second Submission

Muscle Preservation during Weight Loss in Older, Overweight Individuals

Based on previous successful experience in the field, these submissions were focused on an aggressive combination of clinical research and commercialization. These proposals were well-received but suggested more preliminary data to support our assertions.

National Institutes of Health NIAAA Phase I First submission (LCI: Coker)

A Nutritional Formulation for Alcohol Rehabilitation

This proposal was focused on a unique subset of the population that are largely underserved with respect to nutritional therapy. While it received a favorable score and an official “intent to fund” by NIH, it was ultimately not funded as an NIH SBIR

National Science Foundation RII Track – 2 FEC: Advancing Neurotechnology and Research Infrastructure in Alaska and Kansas through Research, Education and Commercialization of Devices for Real-Time Monitoring (Drew, K: PI) (Co-I: Coker)

The focus of this proposal was directed at the generation of separation based sensors for monitoring intercellular signaling. It was our assertion that the generation of these unique sensors would overcome the limitations associated with current microdialysis technology.

National Science Foundation Alaska Science, Technology, and Economic Development Center; Healthy Botanicals and Nutrition (Kuhn, T: PI) (Co-I: Coker)

The primary purpose of this proposal was to promote rigorous academic training and ignite economic development through enhancements in translational capacity. While this singular proposal was not funded, it did help promote many entrepreneurial initiatives at UAF, including the recent TREND supported seminars which led to multiple NIH SBIR submissions.

Grants Awarded but Returned or Transferred

National Institutes of Health                                                                

Small Business Innovations in Research (Phase II)                                                   

Anabolic Countermeasures against Sarcopenic Obesity

The aim of this award was to further investigate the long-term therapeutic efficacy of a meal replacement rich in essential amino acids in the treatment of sarcopenic obesity. Moreover, this included a methods-based commercialization of the product into the private sector. 

National Institutes of Health                                                                

Small Business Innovations in Research (Phase I)                                        

Nutritional Countermeasures against Sarcopenic Obesity

The specific aim of this award was to determine the efficacy of a unique formulation of essential amino acids in protecting against the loss of lean mass during caloric restriction-induced weight loss in the obese elderly population.

BGA 03653552 Coker (PI)                                                                              

American Heart Association; Heartland Affiliate                   

Influence of Caloric Restriction and Exercise Training on Metabolic Syndrome

This proposal was funded on the first submission but was returned upon receipt of the SDA award from the American Heart Association

Previous Grants

NIH 1P30AG028718-01A2                                                                

Arkansas Claude Pepper Older Americans Independence Center

(Program Director: Wei, JY); Resource Core 2 (RC2) (Co-Leader: Coker, RH)

Goals: This RC2 (Nutrition, Metabolism and Physiology Core)provides many key resources including body composition analysis, standardized testing for metabolic function, a dietician and a metabolic kitchen. The components of this core work with the excellent nutritional support provided by the NIH-funded Translational Research Initiative.

National Institutes of Health                                                                

National Institute of General Medical Sciences; Clinical Translational Research Infrastructure Network Grant G10288

Nutritional Formulation for Alcohol Rehabilitation

This objective of this study will be focused on the influence of a patent protected nutritional formulation on muscle protein synthesis in individuals recovering from alcohol use disorder.

National Dairy Association                                                                 

Macronutrients and Metabolic Syndrome (Co-PI’s: Ferrando and Coker)

The purpose of this project was to determine the protective influence of dairy products in the prevention of metabolic syndrome.

R01 DK034817 National Institutes of Health                                       

Substrate Cycling in Energy Metabolism (PI: Wolfe RR)

The goal of this study was to investigate the relationship between free fatty acid delivery to the liver and very low-density lipoprotein triglyceride production and secretion.

Abbott Laboratories                                                                           

Comparison of Medical Nutritional Supplements with or without AN77 in Elderly Men – BK96

(PI: Wolfe, RR) Role: Co-Investigator

Goals: To assess the effect of hydroxyl methylbutyrate on muscle protein synthesis.

NIH 1RC2GM092277 National Institutes of Health                              

Stable Isotope Analytical Core for Studies in Human Metabolism (PI: Wolfe, RR) 

The primary purpose of this grant was to provide core laboratory offering routine and specialized sample analysis and assistance in methods development and training in use of stable isotopes in human metabolic studies.

Clinical Merit Review; Coker (PI)                                                        

Veterans Administration                                            

Weight Loss and Insulin Action

The specific aim of this award was to elucidate the degree of weight loss necessary to reduce adipocyte inflammation and normalize insulin resistance in obese adults.

P01 AG023591-01                                                                             

NIH/NIA                                                                       

Bedrest and Aging, Evans (Program Director)

Insulin Resistance and Carbohydrate Metabolism; Coker (Project Leader)

The major goal of this project was to examine the influence of bedrest on insulin action in the elderly and provide clinically useful strategies to prevent its deleterious influence.

K01 DK 64716-01 Coker (PI)                                                              

NIH/NIDDK                                                                   

Therapeutic Adaptation of Insulin Action

The goal of this grant was to determine the separate influence of weight loss from exercise training on hepatic and peripheral insulin action in obese persons.

SDA 0335172N Coker (PI)                                                                  

American Heart Association                                                              

Influence of Caloric Restriction and Exercise Training on the Pathogenesis of Metabolic Syndrome

The primary goal of this grant was to determine the influence of caloric restriction vs. exercise training on insulin action in persons with impaired glucose tolerance.

R01 AG 19346-01; Evans (PI)                                                

NIH/NIA                                                                       

Influence of Physical Activity on Insulin Resistance in the Elderly

This grant was to determine the impact of exercise intensity on glucose metabolism.

JDFI 397014; Coker (PI)                                                          

Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, International               

Role of Adrenergic Drive in Regulation of Carbohydrate Metabolism during Exercise in Health and Diabetes

The goal of this grant in combination with R01 DK50277 was to determine the role of adrenergic stimulation in carbohydrate metabolism during exercise in health and disease.

 

  • Exercise Physiology
  • Medical Physiology
  • Physical Therapy Internship
  • Clinical Research Methods
Current Graduate Students (More info)
  • Stephanie Crawford
  • Michelle Johannsen
  • Kenneth Shin
Past Graduate Students
  • Karen Jeans, Ph.D., Committee Member, “A descriptive comparison of human research protection program characteristics and accreditation outcomes in VA facilities, College of Nursing, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Committee member, 2010.

  • La’Tasha M. Smith, Ph.D., “Comparative profiling of adipokines and gene expression of adipocyte differentiation factors in obese african-american and Caucasian women, Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, College of Medicine, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Committee Member, 2008.

  • Chad Carroll, Ph.D., “Human muscle specific protein synthesis with amino acids”, Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics College of Medicine, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Committee Member, 2004.

  • Rick H. Williams, M.S., “Application of microdialysis for the measurement of skeletal muscle protein degradation”, Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics College of Medicine, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Committee Member, 2003.

  • Kendal P. Honea, Ph.D., The effects of a 3-Hydroxy-3-Methylglutaryl Coenzyme-A reductase inhibitor and moderate cardiorespiratory exercise on cholesterol metabolism in obese, hypercholesterolemic males, Department of Health and Exercise Science, Committee Chair, 2001.

Past Post-Doctoral Fellows
  • Il-Young Kim, Ph.D., University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR
  • Sophie Yeo-Hussey, Ph.D., University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR
News Releases
In the News
  • Executive Advisory Committee, University of Nevada Las Vegas Clinical Translational Research Infrastructure Network, 2017.
  • Reviewer,  Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, 2017-present.
  • Reviewer, Institute of Translational Health Sciences-Research Scholars Program, University of Washington School of Medicine, 2017-present.
  • Ad Hoc Reviewer, NIH Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases Study Section, 2017-present.
  • Faculty Representative, Unit Program Review Committee, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2016-2017.
  • Reviewer, University of Utah-Washington University at Saint Louis Diabetes Research and Training Center; Collaborative Pilot and Feasibility Program, 2016-2017.
  • Reviewer, NIH Integrative Nutrition and Metabolic Processes Study Section, 2016-present.
  • Member, United Academics AAUP/AFT Joint Health Care Committee, 2016-2017.
  • Chair, Graduate Admission Committee in Biomedical/Physiology, UAF, 2016-2017.
  • Reviewer, NIH: Clinical and Translational Science Awards, 2016-present.
  • Reviewer, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, “Organs on Chips”, 2016.
  • Chair of Organizing Committee, Northwest and Alaska ACSM annual meeting, 2016.
  • Reviewer, PLoS One, Diabetologia, 2016-present.
  • Moderator and Chair, Alaska High School Science Symposium, 2016-2017.
  • President, American College of Sports Medicine, Alaska Chapter, 2015-2016.
  • Member, Steering Committee, Institute of Translational Health Sciences, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, 2014-present.
  • Reviewer, Clinical Nutrition; Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, Experimental Gerontology, 2013-present.
  • Director, Life Science Seminar Series, Institute of Arctic Biology, UAF, 2013-2014.
  • Reviewer, American Journal of Physiology, Journal of Gerontology, Medical and Biological Sciences, Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging, 2012-present.
  • Reviewer, Veterans Administration Merit Review Program, 2012.
  • Scientific Advisory Committee, Translational Research Institute, UAMS. 2009-2013.
  • National Institutes of Health, National Institutes of Digestive, Diabetes and Kidney Diseases, Grant Review Committee, 2009-present
  • American Heart Association, Grant Review Committee, 2009-present.
  • Reviewer, Diabetes Care, Metabolism, Journal of Physical Activity and Health, Physician and Sportsmedicine, Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders, 2009-present.
  • Regular Member, Institutional Review Board, Central Arkansas Veterans Administration, 2007-2009.
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Applied Physiology, 2007-present
  • Clinical Research Success Award, UAMS, 2005
  • Regular Member, Veterans Administration Research and Development Committee, Central Arkansas Veterans Administration, 2003-2007.
  • 2004-present
  • Regular Member, Institutional Review Board, UAMS, 2003-2005.
  • Reviewer, Metabolism, American Journal of Physiology, Journal of Applied Physiology, 1999-present
  • Reviewer, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise and Canadian Journal of Pharmacology and Physiology, 1999-present

For graduate students (MS and PhD) and post docs, apply directly to: rcoker@alaska.edu