Human metabolic chamber

ACU's state-of-the-art human metabolic chamber (whole-body room calorimeter) expands our research into the effects of exercise and dietary interventions on the health of all Australians.

The Room Calorimeter ADVANCE system brings measures of human energy and substrate metabolism studies to the next level through continuous ‘real-time’ monitoring of responses to interventions.

Designed and built by the world-leading team from Maastricht Instruments in the Netherlands, the chamber is the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere. It allows researchers to perform an overnight resting metabolic rate measurement, take blood and other body samples, and monitor a person over several days. The room can also be equipped with exercise ergometers and is fitted with a low-draft air conditioning system with temperature, humidity and altitude control.

An essential tool for metabolic studies needing short or longer-term stays, this state-of-the-art research technology will enable our academic and industry partners to more accurately translate research into clinical practice.

  • State-of-the-art technology

    Based on the Metabolic Research Unit Maastricht, the result of 35 years of world-leading research.

  • Melbourne, Australia

    Located in Melbourne, it is the only whole-body room calorimeter in the southern hemisphere.

  • Data-driven results

    Extensive physiological and environmental data acquisition system delivering traceable raw data.

A whole-body room calorimeter (also known as a metabolic chamber or respiration chamber) is an airtight room in which patients or trial participants reside for a set period of time, ranging normally from 24 hours to several days. Whole-body room calorimetry allows us to monitor subjects for such extended periods of time while in a free moving environment that permits differentiation of different components of energy expenditure such as sleeping, resting, physical activity as well as assessing the thermic effect of food.

The whole-body room calorimeter is continuously ventilated with “fresh air” and the expired gases by the study participants are mixed and extracted. Both inspired and expired gases are sampled to simultaneously determine oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production. Over the time spent in the chamber, highly accurate analysis of the contribution of body fat, carbohydrate and protein to energy expenditure is therefore possible.

The system allows for a broad range of temperature settings which can be manipulated to examine the effect of different ambient temperature and humidity conditions on energy metabolism. However, in most settings temperature and relative humidity are kept relatively constant during a measurement period.

The layout is based on the Metabolic Research Unit Maastricht (MRUM), which is the result of 35 years of world-leading metabolic research. Key features include:

  • fully equipped study room for multiple-day stay;
  • extensive physiological and environmental data acquisition system delivering traceable raw data and calculated parameters;
  • advanced environment control system (temperature, humidity, altitude);
  • sampling interfaces (e.g. blood, urine, faeces, nutrition etc.);
  • safety and communication features;
  • industrial-grade components and installation;
  • a modular system with extensions for environmental control (e.g. hypoxia, lighting), different room configurations, or additional physiological measurements (e.g. physical activity, ECG, heart rate, respiration rate, body temperature, skin temperature, blood pressure, blood glucose).
Obesity and type 2 diabetes

Obesity and type 2 diabetes are two metabolic risk factors and can lead to cardiovascular disease, the leading non-communicable disease in terms of premature deaths. Moreover, obesity and insulin resistance in women of reproductive age, in particular, not only increases the women’s own risk for future cardiometabolic disease, but also predisposes her offspring for adverse health outcomes. Lifestyle changes, including increased physical activity and a healthy diet are recommended as key preventive approaches of obesity and type 2 diabetes but many individuals fail to adhere to these preventive guidelines. New approaches are needed to capture the dynamics of acute and chronic interventions, which are important for changes to life-style or habitual behaviour.

Sleep and circadian rhythm

Research on the relationship between metabolic function and circadian biology is increasing dramatically, with the effects of our modern-day “round-the-clock” lifestyle linked to a rise in a number of metabolic conditions, including poor sleep patterns. In order to investigate fluctuations in daily circadian rhythms in response to various interventions (i.e., exercise, meal patterns, disruptions to sleep), whole-body room calorimeters provide the “gold standard” for investigating such phenomenon, due to the control of dark-light cycles and other environmental cues.

Exercise physiology and sports science

Physical activity, exercise training and the related metabolic and physiological benefits are of interest to sports scientists. Whole-body room calorimeters can be used to study both elite athletes’ and untrained individuals responses to exercise and dietary interventions.

Collaborate with us

A student in a white coat and green gloves looks through a microscope

As an enterprising university, we deliver value to partners and provide access to our infrastructure, facilities and expert personnel. 

ACU is home to leading expertise in metabolic diseases, nutrition, biomechanics and neurophysiology, and advanced health research technology, including:

  • Biochemistry wet labs - Whole blood and PC2 Tissue culture biochemistry labs.
  • Advanced imaging technology - Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry and high resolution peripheral computer tomography scanners.
  • Simulation labs - High-fidelity paramedicine and nursing simulation wards.
  • Exercise physiology lab - Individual and team based assessments of exercise physiology and metabolism, functional performance assessments, muscle and fat biopsies.

The human metabolic chamber compliments ACU's existing health research infrastructure and unlocks new avenues of research for our academic and industry research partners.  

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