Scientists at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and University of Sydney’s School of Molecular Bioscience in Australia recently announced that they were able to create the world’s first ‘blueprint’ of the changes physical activity triggers within the human body.
They say that the blueprint can later be used to design the ‘exercise pill,’ which would help you stay fit without breaking a sweat. A paper on the findings was published Friday in the journal Cell Metabolism.
The research team argues that human skeletal muscles undergo about 1,000 molecular changes whenever we workout. Dr. Nolan Hoffman, lead researcher involved in the study, explained that those are just the most important changes physical activity brings. Hoffman added that the changes and their blueprint may soon be replicated in drugs which can help people ‘workout’ without leaving their couch.
Researchers noted that their ‘map’ of the molecular changes is unique in the world and may lay the foundation for new drugs that can trick the body into believing that there’s an ongoing physical exercise. Study authors acknowledged that the effects of exercise are various and complex, so creating a map was not an easy task.
Scientists used a method dubbed ‘mass spectrometry’ to track protein changes within the human body during physical activity. Four study participants were asked to provide scientists with a tiny muscle sample before and after the exercise. They were also asked to ride an exercise bicycle for ten minutes at high intensity. The muscle samples were then analyzed in a Sydney laboratory.
Hoffman thanked volunteers for donating their muscle samples to science and riding the bikes as hard as they could. Yet, the team learned that the 1,000 molecular changes are still too many to be replicated into a single drug. So, researchers hope to identify the most significant changes before thinking of developing a treatment.
As a follow-up, they also want to study changes that physical exercise may bring into ill people and compare results with molecular changes in healthy individuals. The team needed three years to map the changes in skeletal muscles and they may need twice as many years to simplify the blueprint and create an exercise pill. Hoffman believes that the pill may enter clinical trials in at least a decade. Yet, his colleagues are actively engaged in the project.
An exercise drug may be beneficial not only to the lazy, but to the elderly, obese patients, and those with heart disease and type 2 diabetes as well, researchers believe.
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