One Protein Could Provide Many Of The Benefits Of Working Out

Medicine researchers at the University of MI studying a class of naturally occurring protein called Sestrin have found that it can mimic many effects of exercise in flies and mice. These findings could eventually help scientists counter muscle degradation due to aging and other causes. Help may be on its way, however, as new research indicates that an existing protein provides some of the key benefits of exercise. Their first step was to encourage a bunch of flies to work out.

"Researchers have previously observed that Sestrin accumulates in muscle following exercise", said Myungjin Kim, a research assistant professor at the University of MI in the US.

Taking advantage of Drosophila flies' normal instinct to climb up and out of a test tube, their collaborators Robert Wessells, Ph.D. and Alyson Sujkowski of Wayne State University in Detroit developed a type of fly treadmill.

One group was normal, one group had been bred to lack the ability to produce Sestrin, and one had been altered to overexpress Sestrin.

After three weeks of training in their insect gym, normal flies displayed an increase in their performance levels and were able to maintain a higher intensity for longer periods. According to the study, mice without Sestrin lacked improved aerobic capacity, improved respiration, and fat burning, typically associated with exercise. In fact, flies with overexpressed Sestrin didn't develop more endurance when exercised. In contrast, the flies that lacked Sestrin showed no improvement at all, suggesting that the molecule must in some way generate changes in endurance levels following exercise. Previous studies have found that Sestrin accumulates in the muscle, following exercise. The protein coordinated with these biological activities by turning on or off different metabolic pathways, an effect produced through exercise. "This kind of combined effect is important for producing exercise's effects".

So, could Sestrin supplements be on the cards? Not quite, says Lee. Because these flies couldn't produce any more Sestrin than they started with, the researchers were unsurprised to see that the insects made no further gains after exercise.

"This is very critical for future study and could lead to a treatment for people who cannot exercise", said Kim.

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