It’s one of the typical New Year’s resolutions: join a gym or become runners to get fit, once and for all. But many end up being lazy or looking for the excuse of lack of time … What if there was a pill that produced the benefits of physical exercise, saving us the sacrifices that it entails ?
Well, it’s not such a crazy idea. In fact, scientists at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, are seriously working on it. Although its objective is not so much to make it easy for healthy people, but to help those who cannot do sports under normal conditions, such as people with heart or lung disorders, disabled or affected by type 2 diabetes.
His previous research with rats already found a gene – PPARD – that, when activated permanently, caused the same effects as training : genetically altered animals became a kind of distance runners who did not gain weight easily and they had a rapid response to insulin.
Next, experts from the Salk Institute located a chemical compound, called GW1516, that turned on the PPARD gene. In their latest experiment, they administered the substance to a group of sedentary rodents for 8 weeks and ran them on a treadmill until exhausted. The result is that the “doped” mice held out up to 70% longer than the congeners that did not take the drug.
When carrying out the molecular analysis of their muscles, they observed that the expression of 975 genes changed in the animals subjected to treatment. Those that were activated were linked to burning fat for energy, while those that were turned off were responsible for doing the same with carbohydrates (sugars). Researchers believe that glucose is stored in this way for the brain , since muscles can use both pathways, turning to sugar in the first place.
“The study suggests that burning fat is not so much a way to achieve cardiovascular endurance, but rather to conserve glucose and preserve proper brain function ,” explains study co-author Michael Downes.
Ultimately, the experiment shows, according to its authors, that the PPARD gene can be activated without the need for exercise, which opens the door to developing a drug for humans based on the compound GW1516.