Gene tweaked ‘marathon mice’ may pave way for human musclemen

Treatments that can increase muscle strength of humans may soon be within reach, a new study has suggested.

A team of researchers at EPFL, the University of Lausanne and the Salk Institute created super strong, marathon mice and nematodes by reducing the function of a natural inhibitor, suggesting treatments for age-related or genetically caused muscle degeneration are quite possible.

The team led by EPFL professor Johan Auwerx showed that that the tiny inhibitor may be responsible for how strong and powerful our muscles can be.

By acting on a receptor (NCoR1), the scientists were able to modulate the transcription of certain genes, creating a strain of mighty mice whose muscles were twice a strong as those of normal mice.

The mice with the mutation became true marathoners and were able to cover almost twice the distance run by mice that hadn’t received the treatment. They also exhibited better cold tolerance.

The study found that by genetically manipulating the offspring of these species, the researchers were able to suppress the NCoR1 corepressor, which normally acts to inhibit the buildup of muscle tissues.

Similar results were also observed in nematode worms, allowing the scientists to conclude that their results could be applicable to a large range of living creatures.

The researchers say their results are a milestone in our understanding of certain fundamental mechanisms of living organisms, in particular the little-studied role of corepressors.

“This could be used to combat muscle weakness in the elderly, which leads to falls and contributes to hospitalizations,” emphasizes Auwerx.

“In addition, we think that this could be used as a basis for developing a treatment for genetic muscular dystrophy,” he added.

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The study has been recently published in the journal Cell.

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