Inhibiting Natural Molecules Found In Body Could Prevent Muscle Loss
December 19, 2012

Inhibiting Natural Molecules Found In Body Could Prevent Muscle Loss

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

A study may be paving the way for finding ways to prevent muscle loss, obesity and diabetes.

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) found that by inhibiting a particular molecule produced naturally in the body, muscle loss due to aging or illness can be prevented. By blocking this same molecule, it triggers the body to go into a "fat-burning mode" which will fight obesity, and also treat the most common form of diabetes.

The researchers wrote in the journal Cell Metabolism that they found a protein called Myostatin, which controls muscle cell growth, is responsible for initiating muscle loss.

When excess levels of Myostatin are bound to a muscle cell, it induces heavy loss of mitochondria, which causes the muscle cell to waste or lose muscle tissue due to the "lack of energy."

Under normal conditions, a small loss of Mitochondria is needed for the regeneration of new cells. However, when a patient is suffering from chronic diseases or is bedridden, the process is disrupted due to high levels of myostatin, which leads to increased mitochondrial loss and muscle atrophy.

"For example, about 30 per cent of cancer patients die not because of cancer, but because of muscle loss also known as cachexia," NTU Associate Professor Ravi Kambadur said in a statement. "When someone is suffering from a chronic disease and doesn't eat enough, the body starts to generate energy by breaking down muscle proteins and that is the reason we see a lot of muscle wasting under chronic disease conditions."

He said his team's research has revealed that this type of muscle wasting is initiated by excess levels of myostatin in the body.

"If we block myostatin from binding to cells, then muscles won't waste away and we can then mitigate the effects of aging and chronic diseases," Kambadur said.

The team found that the protein also regulates whether the body will burn fat, or regulates carbohydrates during fasting and meal times.

By blocking myostatin, it keeps the body in a fat-burning mode, and helps to promote muscle growth at the same time. Ultimately, the team's research could not only have an effect on helping to stop obesity, but also Type 2 diabetes.

In the U.S., 90 to 95 percent of diabetes cases are Type 2, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"In near future, myostatin blockers could increase fat utilization in the body and give you the benefits of exercise, without actually doing intense physical activity," Prof Kambadur said. "This would be a good alternative treatment for people who are unable to exercise, such as those who are bed-ridden or are in cancer treatment, who are most at risk of massive muscle loss."

Kambadur said that while blocking myostatin sounds good, there remains a need to study the long term effects, as the molecule is needed to regulate cell growth for normal body operation.