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Lobachevsky University researchers, Alexander Ovchinnikov and Anna Deryugina, together with Professor Antonio Paoli, Doctor of Medicine, Head of the Laboratory of Nutrition and Sports Physiology at the University of Padua (Italy), are developing a unique biologically active supplement for athletes. The compound enhances the performance of high-intensity interval exercise in runners through alterations in autonomic regulation of the heart and blood lactate concentration.

They have developed a composition based on royal jelly (a honey bee secretion) and exogenous coenzyme Q10 that increases physical performance by reducing intramuscular acidity and shifting the autonomic balance more rapidly towards an increase in parasympathetic influences on heart rate during the transition from exercise to rest.

"Bee royal jelly has a heterogeneous composition that includes more than 110 different components. Among these components is a chemical compound that is not found anywhere else in nature, 10-hydroxy-2-decenoic acid. First of all, we attribute the main effect of royal jelly in our composition to the action of this acid, which is due to the activation of 5'AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) by its phosphorylation by the β-isoform of Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase regardless of the change in the AMP/ATP ratio. This is an important point because direct activators of AMPK acting through the second metabolic pathway are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency," explains Alexander Ovchinnikov, Associate Professor of the Sports Medicine and Psychology Department at the UNN Faculty of Physical Education and Sports.

The additive effect is achieved through the activation of several complementary metabolic pathways by chemical compounds in the composition. These pathways are related to the energy status of skeletal muscle cells and autonomic nervous system neurons that regulate myocardial activity.

"AMPK activation induced by royal jelly stimulates glycolysis, while exogenous coenzyme Q10 causes an increase in oxygen consumption mediated by complexes I and II of the mitochondrial respiration chain, which leads to a decrease in lactate concentration. In turn, activation of ankyrin (TRPA1) and vanilloid (TRPV1) ion channels of type 1 transient receptor potential is one of the mechanisms of increasing sympathetic effects on heart rhythm during exercise and, on the contrary, increasing parasympathetic regulation of sinus node activity during the post-exercise period," Alexander Ovchinnikov added.

The research has evolved from the topic of Alexander Ovchinnikov’s PhD thesis, which was prepared under the supervision of Dr. Anna Deryugina, Head of the Department of Physiology and Anatomy at the UNN Institute of Biology and Biomedicine.

"Studying bee products is one of the traditional research areas for our department. Alexander chose this topic as a student and later, as a postgraduate at the Institute of Biology and Biomedicine, he scaled up his research work and successfully defended his dissertation. Today, there is a new stage in the development of the topic due to a more detailed understanding of the mechanisms of the composition’s action, which is of extreme interest to us and is reflected, among other things, in an international collaboration», commented Anna Deryugina.

The findings of the study have been published in the leading international journal Frontiers in Nutrition (Q1, impact factor 6.576), which reports cutting-edge research and development in the field of sports nutrition. The journal is ranked number twelve in the Nutrition & Dietetics category by Web of Science.