- Title: Mouse study brings exercise pill a step closer
- Date: 19th May 2017
- Summary: SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PEOPLE WORKING OUT ON ROWING MACHINES
- Embargoed: 2nd June 2017 22:30
- Keywords: mouse study exercise-in-a-pill Salk Institute exercise pill
- Location: LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES/LONDON AND GREAT BARFORD, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM/MEXICO CITY, MEXICO/REHOVOT, ISRAEL/SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
- City: LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES/LONDON AND GREAT BARFORD, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM/MEXICO CITY, MEXICO/REHOVOT, ISRAEL/SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
- Country: USA
- Topics: Science
- Reuters ID: LVA0076HI5XSR
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: People who are elderly, obese or have health conditions that prevent them from exercising could soon see some of the benefits of working out, without ever lacing up their sneakers, according to a new study.
Scientists at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, are working on a drug designed to reprogram the body to burn fat instead of sugar for fuel, and mice trials have been encouraging.
"The goal of the work for the exercise-in-a-pill study was to first understand what is exercise from a scientific point of view. And then if we could understand mechanical exercise. Could we actually develop a pill that could mimic that," said the study's senior author Ronald Evans, professor of the Gene Expression Laboratory at the Institute.
"If you can drug it then you can bring the potential or the health benefits of exercise to people who can't exercise and there are many many people who can't exercise. And so this could be a lifesaving type of therapy for certain kinds of individuals," he said.
The pill is comprised of a chemical compound called GW 1516 which reprograms the body on a genetic level. The team found that the chemical turns off genes that instruct the body to break down carbohydrates into energy while turning on genes that tell the body to burn fat.
"You can keep going on fat for a long time, as long as you keep the sugar going to the brain. And so the secret is how to reprogram that. It's promoting something, which is burning fat, and inhibiting something, which is burning sugar. That's what training does. Our pill does that without training," said Evans.
The researchers say that mice in the study were able to run 100 minutes longer after being dosed with the pill. And mice who were not exercised also showed signs of improved health.
The muscles of mice that took the drug did not, however, exhibit any of the changes that typically accompany aerobic fitness, such as more blood vessels or additional mitochondria, the energy-producing 'power plants' in blood cells. But Evans said, in the future, scientists might also be able to produce a pill to promote those changes.
"With the pill, you get all this benefit and you have not improved your blood supply, you haven't changed your heart function, and so it means that endurance to us is about the brain. It's about keeping the brain going. If you keep your brain going, you're going to keep running. Now, it doesn't mean that those changes are not important, so there's another pathway that we're studying that promotes those changes, and so now we're saying well, what if we actually promote those changes as well, because we can control that. And so we can promote mitochondrial numbers to change and improve blood flow with another kind of pill," he said.
Evans said clinical trials could begin on the exercise-in-a-pill within six months to a year, and the human version of the pills have already been developed.
The study first appeared in the metabolic biology journal "Cell Metabolism" on May 2, 2017.
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