Focus-Science and Technology - - Discoveries -

We’re all told to ex­er­cise more, but for those with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties that isn’t al­ways pos­si­ble. For such peo­ple, the ben­e­fits of aer­o­bic ex­er­cise have al­ways been out of reach. But now a team at the Salk In­sti­tute for Bi­o­log­i­cal Stud­ies in San Diego, Cal­i­for­nia has de­vel­oped a pill that en­gen­ders such ef­fects chem­i­cally, with mice given the drug able to burn fat more ef­fec­tively while ex­hibit­ing in­creased stamina.

When peo­ple ex­er­cise reg­u­larly, their bod­ies be­come more adept at us­ing fat rather than glu­cose as an en­ergy source. It’s been known for some time that this abil­ity is linked to the ex­pres­sion of a gene called PPARD – mice that were ge­net­i­cally en­gi­neered to have this gene per­ma­nently ac­ti­vated proved more re­sis­tant to weight gain than nor­mal mice, and had more stamina.

The new re­search in­volved giv­ing mice a chem­i­cal com­pound called GW1516, which also ac­ti­vates the PPARD gene, over a pe­riod of eight weeks. Mice given GW1516 could typ­i­cally run for 270 min­utes be­fore be­com­ing ex­hausted, com­pared to 160 min­utes for the con­trol group. Closer ex­am­i­na­tion showed that when the PPARD path­way is ac­ti­vated, the ex­pres­sion of 975 dif­fer­ent genes within the mus­cles is af­fected, with those in­volved in burn­ing fat in­creased and those in­volved in break­ing down glu­cose sup­pressed.

“PPARD is sup­press­ing all the points in­volved in su­gar me­tab­o­lism in the mus­cle, so glu­cose can be redi­rected to the brain,” ex­plained re­searcher Dr Michael Downes. “Ex­er­cise ac­ti­vates PPARD, but we’re show­ing that you can do the same thing with­out me­chan­i­cal train­ing.”

The re­search sheds new light on the fac­tors af­fect­ing en­durance, and of­fers dis­abled pa­tients the hope of im­proved qual­ity of life.

Calf mus­cle of a mouse, stained to show three dif­fer­ent types of mus­cle

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