The health benefits one can reap if they commit themselves to a regular exercise regimen — such as running — are many. However, there are scores of people around the world who, due to physical or other limitations, are unable to run to build their stamina.
A new study now shares that building stamina may not require so much time, or exercise, as previously thought.
In previous studies, researchers from the Salk Institute discovered a gene pathway that was triggered by running. On the basis of the previous discovery, the scientists have been able to identify a process that completely activates the same pathway in inactive mice. This pathway is activated with the help of a special chemical compound.
Chemical Compound Exhibiting Benefits Of Exercise
The older study revealed that a special chemical compound used to activate the pathway in mice initated the valuable and beneficial effects of exercise, which involved stamina increase and fat burning.
The researchers revealed that the study helped them fill the gaps in their understanding of aerobic endurance. It also provided them with an alternative to exercise for individuals with coronary heart conditions, type 2 diabetes, pulmonary disease, and any other medical constraints that have stopped them from exercising.
“The question for us was: how does endurance work? And if we really understand the science, can we replace training with a drug?” senior author Ronald Evans asserted.
Discovery Of PPARD And GW Chemical Compound
Endurance development basically means the ability to continue aerobic exercises for longer durations. As individuals become more and more fit, their body muscles start burning fat instead of carbohydrates or glucose. Thus, in the older study, the researchers assumed that endurance is a bodily activity geared primarily toward burning fat.
Evans in his previous experiments discovered a gene dubbed PPAR delta or PPARD, whose in-depth examination offered some very fascinating hints to the team.
The researchers had already established that genetically-engineered mice with activated PPARD gene went on to become long-distance runners. These genetically-modified mice not only resisted weight gain, but were also highly responsive to insulin. In short, these mice exhibited all the qualities linked with physical fitness.
During the older study of mice, the scientists discovered a chemical compound named GW1516 or just GW. This compound activated the PPARD pathway and exhibited all the same characterises seen in the genetically-engineered mice being replicated in the normal ones.
However, the GW did not have any benefits on the endurance of the mice unless they regularly exercised. Thus, the experiment failed as it could not find a replacement for physical exercise.
Exercise-In-A-Pill: How Was It Discovered?
In the current study, Salk and his team administered a higher dose of GW in the normal mice for a longer duration of eight weeks instead of four. The mice that received the GW and the ones that didn’t were both in an inactive state.
However, both the groups were analyzed on the basis of treadmill tests till they stopped running due to exhaustion. The control group ran for about 160 minutes and the drugged mice ran for almost 270 minutes, which is 70 percent longer than the normal mice.
To gain an understanding of the disparity between the two groups at a molecular level, the researchers compared the gene expressions in the major muscles of the mice. It was discovered that the expression of 975 genes had changed when the GW chemical compound was administered. These gene expressions either increased or got suppressed.
The genes whose expression increased were identified as the ones responsible for burning and breaking down the fat. The suppressed genes, on the other hand, broke down carbohydrates for energy.
It is not yet clear whether this chemical compound would have the same effect on human as it did on mice. However, pharmaceutical companies are interested in taking this experiment a notch higher and start human trials of the same to come out with an innovative prescription drug.
The study’s findings have been published in journal Cell Metabolism on Tuesday, May 2.
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