A naturally-occurring protein has been found to mimic the effects of working out in experimental animal trials carried out by researchers at the University of Michigan. These findings could have far reaching implications across the fitness, medical, and scientific fields. The researchers suggest that their finding shows that it could be possible to get the benefits of exercise without having to actually exercise. The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.
Previous studies have shown the protein Sestrin accumulates in the muscles after intense physical activity. Boosting levels of that protein during a workout can increase muscle gain, fat burning, and lung capacity. The University of Michigan researchers wanted to see if artificially upping an animal’s Sestrin levels could produce the beneficial effects that are associated with the protein. They designed trials using flies and mice to find out.
They started with three groups of Drosophila flies. One group was normal, one group had been bred to overexpress Sestrin, and one had been altered to lack the ability to produce Sestrin. All three groups were physically trained for three weeks. Those which were modified to produce extra Sestrin became stronger than the normal flies, even when they did no exercise. The flies altered to stop producing Sestrin did not become any stronger, regardless of how much exercise they did.
When mice were stopped from producing Sestrin, the animals did not improve their fitness or burn fat when they exercised. Dr. Myungkin Kim, who led the study, and colleagues believed that the results showed the production of Sestrin during exercise was what produced benefits in the body. Now they want to see if they can find a way to force the body to make it while a person is resting.
The scientists are further exploring the manner in which Sestrin is produced within the body. Sestrin molecules are currently too big to be made into a supplement, so other delivery methods must be explored to move the research forward.