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Author Topic: Pop a pill to keep a six-pack without even breaking sweat  (Read 1660 times)

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Offline Miss Philicia

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  • celebrity poster, faker & poser
Pop a pill to keep a six-pack without even breaking sweat
« on: February 15, 2008, 11:44:14 AM »
Oh, I can't wait for this one!  It's like my dream come true!

August 31, 2006

Pop a pill to keep a six-pack without even breaking sweat
By Mark Henderson, Science Editor

WHILE achieving a toned and muscular physique is hard enough, maintaining it can become a chore. For the would-be Brad Pitts among us, help is at hand.

Scientists are on course to develop a drug that would allow people to maintain their six-packs without the need for exercise.

Research into muscle wastage — intended primarily to treat weakness in the sick and elderly — could lead to therapies that enable healthy people to preserve a buffed look without lifting a finger. While muscles can be built up with exercise, they start to break down quickly without it, so it is necessary to keep exercising to prevent muscles wasting away.

The same atrophy process becomes a serious health risk in bedridden patients and the elderly and among those with diseases such as Aids, cancer and kidney failure. Muscle is lost through disuse, starting a vicious circle in which exercise becomes difficult, leading to further wastage.

The problem has prompted several teams of scientists to seek out the genetic cues that trigger muscle atrophy in response to rest, with a view to finding drugs to treat wasting conditions. At least three research groups have now identified some of the genes responsible. While a workable drug remains some way off, scientists are convinced that it will be possible to control muscle wasting pharmacologically, New Scientist magazine reports today.

Such a drug would be designed for use by elderly people to combat the natural muscle wastage that accompanies old age, and to prevent muscle loss in patients with wasting conditions or who have to remain bedridden for a long time. It would also be useful for astronauts spending long periods in space, where the lack of gravity leads to muscle wastage.

Other potential users include athletes wishing to preserve muscle they have built by training without further exertion, and by ordinary people seeking to do the same thing.

“Those in the field agree that the question is no longer if we can develop anti-wasting treatments, but when,” New Scientist says. “While there are valid medical applications for anti-wasting drugs, as a safer alternative to steroids they will inevitably be hugely tempting for athletes too, not to mention the lazy well.”

Two independent teams, one at Harvard University and one from a pharmaceutical company called Regeneron, have identified genes named atrogin1 and muRF1 which are active only during muscle atrophy. In rats, when these are knocked out, the animals suffer much less muscle wastage from disease or disuse.

A third team, at Purdue University, Indiana, has found another gene, erg1, which also contributes to the process. Its influence can be affected by an existing drug called astemizole, although this has been withdrawn because it can interfere with healthy heart activity.

Several companies are developing drugs that block the atrogin1 protein, and scientists are increasingly convinced that a workable therapy will be ready for testing soon. Researchers also accept that, while such a drug would not be intended for healthy people, it would have great appeal as a “gym in a bottle” medicine.

Such a drug would not remove the need to exercise to build up muscles, but it would protect existing muscles against subsequent wastage. People could bulk up in the gym, then relax, while maintaining the look they have achieved. Taking a drug like this would not in itself boost fitness, but by maintaining bigger muscles it would ensure people burn more calories at rest.

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