August 1, 2008
EXERCISE IN A PILL ; Mimics Gym Trip Benefit May Help Chronically Ill
By MIKE SWAIN SCIENCE EDITOR
IT'S the breakthrough couch potatoes have been praying for.
Scientists have come up with a drug that mimics the effects of exercise - and it's already in advanced trials.
Known as Aicar, it and a related drug - which boosts the benefits of exercising - are causing such a stir officials are racing to devise a test for them ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
Professor Ronald Evans, of the Howard Hughes medical Institute and author of a study in the journal Cell, said: "We have exercise in a pill. With no exercise, you can take a drug and chemically mimic it."
The drugs increase the ability of cells to burn fat and are the first shown to enhance exercise endurance. They work by reprogramming muscle fibres to be more efficient and allow them to contract without getting tired. This tricks muscles into thinking they are burning fat - and turns on the same genes that are activated by exercise.
In tests, mice given Aicar ran 44 per cent longer on treadmills than untreated animals. The second compoud, GW1516, boosted endurance 68 per cent when combined with exercise. Prof Evans said: "The effect of the drug was stunning."
Researchers say the pills could help tackle obesity, wasting diseases such as muscular dystrophy and improve the health of the heart and lungs.
Prof Evans added: "We have the potential for a simple intervention in an area of health problems for which there is no intervention.
"If you like exercise, you like the idea of getting more 'bang for your buck' with GW1516. If you don't, you'll love the idea of getting the benefits from Aicar."
44% IMPROVEMENT IN PERFORMANCE OF MICE GIVEN 'AICAR' FITNESS PILL THEN PUT ON TREADMILL
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