“Exercise Pill” Allowing Mice to Run for 70% Longer Developed by Scientists

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Wednesday 3rd May 2017

Scientists searching for a pill that is able to mimic the physical effects of exercise have developed a powerful drug that in tests enabled mice to run for 70 per cent longer than normal, in a findings that could benefit people who traditionally struggle with exercising effectively as well as those who are affected by heart conditions, the elderly, obese or ill people.

The study, described in biological journal Cell Metabolism, built up previous research into the connection between exercise and the build-up of endurance and describes the effect of a drug known as GW, which activates the PPARD gene associated with the ability to run long distances, resist weight gain and respond to insulin, all of which are typically connected to physical fitness.

The upshot of this, according to Dr Fan of the Salk Institute, is that the drug shows that you can improve aerobic endurance without the physical training using this drug. Generally the body prefers to burn sugar however the more people exercise, the more muscles will burn fat instead of blood sugar, a process that PPARD is believed to be involved in. This is useful as it saves the sugar supply of the body for the brain to consume, and prolong the amount of time before someone who exercises hits “the wall”, in that they begin to struggle to get enough energy from within the body.

The study, undertaken with laboratory mice, showed that the mice were able to run on a treadmill for 270 minutes with the help of GW as opposed to the 160 minutes that a regular mouse could run. The mice also put on less weight and controlled blood sugar better.

But while the findings have raised hope of a fitness wonder drug, there are a few major concerns that need to be addressed before GW501516 hits the market.

The first is that the drug was originally developed by major pharmaceutical corporations GlaxoSmithKleine and Ligand Pharmaceuticals in the 1990s, as a treatment for cardiovascular disease. It was abandoned and dropped from commercial use after a number of studies linked high doses of the drug to cancer.

As with many drugs that increase performance there is the issue of abuse within the sport community, where it is known as Endurobol. Indeed, in 2008, at a time when the drug was not available commercially, several athletes in the 2008 Beijing Olympics were found to have used it and subsequently disqualified, after a test was found that could detect the drug. The World Anti Doping Agency have repeatedly issued warnings that the drug is not safe, taking the rare step of saying “clinical approval has not, and will not be given for this substance”, a rare judgement from WADA.

Even outside of the sporting arena, there are concerns regarding the long term effects of the drug, even besides the potential carcinogenic effects. Whilst it would potentially benefit someone with obesity or diabetes, if someone is taking the drug for decades, the long term effects are a complete unknown.

There is some interest in this study, however do not expect a magical exercise pill to arrive on pharmacy shelves any time soon.