It sounds too good to be true, but if a new study is anything to go by, the future of exercise could be popping a pill and sitting on the couch.
Researchers in Missouri and Florida have developed an injection that tricks muscles into thinking they are working harder than they are and speeding up metabolism.
The new drug, which has so far only been shown to work in mice, targets proteins located in the body’s DNA that activate genes that control how the body uses energy, allowing calories to be burned without any physical exercise.
Rodents given the drug for a month weighed less than rodents not given the drug, despite eating the same amount of food. They also had lower cholesterol and burned more fat at rest.
The drug has not been tested in humans, but mouse trials are encouraging. Researchers in Florida and Missouri plan to reformat the treatment as a pill if it reaches human trials.
The experimental treatment is in its early stages and must still go through further trials in animals and then in humans, which would take years.
The potential breakthrough is known as an “exercise mimetic” that tricks muscles into perceiving greater energy burn as exercise.
The new drug is called SLU-PP-332.
In addition to reducing fat mass even when the mice were kept on a high-fat diet, the injectable also prevented the mice from gaining additional weight over a 28-day period.
It also helped stabilize blood sugar levels.
Dr. Thomas Burris, professor of pharmacy at the University of Florida, said: “When you treat mice with the drug, you can see that their entire body’s metabolism resorts to using fatty acids, which is very similar to what that people use when they are fasting. or exercise. And the animals start to lose weight.’
They first tested their drug on a group of mice that became obese when fed a high-fat diet. Mice given SLU-PP-332 for 28 days ultimately weighed 12 percent less than mice treated with placebo.
And during that time, they had only accumulated half a gram of fat mass.
Meanwhile, the mice that received a placebo injection had gained about five grams of fat mass after that one-month period.
In addition to helping the drug-treated mice maintain a lower amount of body fat, the researchers also found that they had lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, a type of fat cells in the bloodstream that are stored in adipose tissue.
High levels of both are often indicators of an unhealthy diet composed of saturated and trans fats, as well as sugary foods and drinks. Obesity is strongly associated with both.
The researchers also tested their drug on mice that were obese to begin with, not just those that were fed a high-fat diet.
The table shows the results of a 28-day dosing regimen. Mice that were fed a high-fat diet for a month while receiving the new drug gained less than one gram of fat mass (shown at right), while untreated mice gained about five grams (shown at right). left).
Mice that received the injectable (indicated in dark blue) had lower overall cholesterol and lower triglycerides than those that received placebo (in gray). The differences were minor but still statistically significant.
Three-month-old obese mice were fed a regular diet and given either the drug or a placebo for 12 days.
Those mice showed a decrease in the amount of body fat, also called adipose tissue, even while still eating the same amount of food.
They also found that the mice’s liver weighed less after receiving the treatment.
A heavy liver is an indication that excess fat has taken over liver cells, which can lead to potentially serious conditions, such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is estimated to affect approximately 100 million Americans.
Dr. Burris said, “This compound basically tells skeletal muscle to make the same changes that are seen during resistance training.”
“They use more energy just living.”
The drug works by activating estrogen-related receptors in DNA sequences, where they play a crucial role in regulating energy use.
The same team of researchers from the University of Florida, Washington University in St. Louis and St. Louis University had previously shown in a mouse trial that their drug increased endurance in mice, which could run 70 percent. more and 45 percent more in comparison. to those who received a placebo.
When certain genes need to be activated, such as those involved in breaking down fatty acids for energy, ERRs bind to DNA. Once those genes are expressed, they increase the body’s ability to burn fat.
This is not the first exercise mimetic drug to be tested, but it comes on the heels of innovative obesity treatments hitting the market, including Wegovy and Ozempic, which was first developed to treat diabetes.
The next step will be to test the injectable in more animal models before moving on to human subjects. They also plan to reformat their medication from an injectable to an easy-to-take pill, although that is still a ways off.
The team’s findings were published in the Journal of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics..