Scientists have developed a new drug which is capable of boosting fitness in people suffering from diabetes and older adults.
The rewards of aerobic exercise have long been out of reach for the elderly, obese or otherwise mobility-limited. Building on earlier work that identified a gene pathway triggered by running, researchers have discovered how to fully activate that pathway in sedentary mice with a chemical compound, mimicking the beneficial effects of exercise, including increased fat burning and stamina. The research deepens our understanding of aerobic endurance and offers people with heart conditions, type 2 diabetes or other health limitations the hope of achieving those benefits pharmacologically, researchers said.“It’s well known that people can improve their aerobic endurance through training,” said Ronald Evans, from the Salk Institute in the US. “The question for us was: how does endurance work? And if we really understand the science, can we replace training with a drug?” Evans said. Developing endurance means being able to sustain an aerobic activity for longer periods of time. As people become more fit, their muscles shift from burning carbohydrates (glucose) to burning fat. Researchers assumed that endurance is a function of the body’s increasing ability to burn fat, though details of the process have been murky. In the study, researchers gave normal mice a higher dose of a chemical compound called GW1516 (GW), for 8 weeks. Both the mice that received the compound and mice that did not were typically sedentary, but all were subjected to treadmill tests to see how long they could run until exhausted.

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