Could a pill to strengthen muscles and bones replace exercise?

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Scientists are getting closer to finding solutions for muscle and bone loss. Jonathan Knowles/Getty Images
  • Physical activity is known to promote healthy bones and muscles.
  • Aging, lifestyle and chronic disease can lead to physical inactivity, which is associated with bone and muscle loss.
  • New research has now identified a drug that can mimic physical exercise in mice.
  • The new drug, called locamidazole, can increase bone formation, mineral density, muscle thickness and muscle strength in mice.

When we are physically active, our bones and muscles work together to make them stronger. To maintain bone health, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends a combination of weight-bearing activities 3-5 times per week and resistance exercise 2-3 times per week.

Studies have shown for life exercise is beneficial for maintaining bone health, and a reduction of physical exercise leads to bone loss. The CDC promotes regular physical activity to strengthen and maintain muscles and bones, to research showed that improving muscle strength may have a moderate effect on relieving joint pain in people with osteoarthritis.

Despite its advantages, modern life is associated with a lack of physical activity. According to World Health OrganizationPhysical inactivity is a serious but “undertreated” public health problem, with up to 85% of the world’s population leading a sedentary lifestyle.

Inactivity is also associated with an increased risk of chronic disease. The British Heart Foundation attributes more than 5 million deaths worldwide to physical inactivity, which equates to one in nine total deaths.

Chronic illnesses, injuries, and aging can make it harder to engage in physical activity, which can lead to muscle weakness (sarcopenia) and bone loss (osteoporosis).

New research undertaken at Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) has identified a new drug that can mimic exercise and promote similar changes in muscle and bone.

The work, led by Professor Tomoki Nakashima, has been published in Bone research.

In the studythe research team has identified a new compound called Locamidazole (LAMZ) as a potential therapeutic drug that can cause exercise-like effects.

To test the new compound, the researchers administered either 10 mg/kg LAMZ orally once daily, 6 mg/kg LAMZ by injection twice daily, or a control solution for 14 days to male mice.

Administration of LAMZ orally and by injection has shown muscle and bone changes. The researchers noted that the treated mice had larger muscle fibers and increased muscle strength compared to mice not treated with LAMZ.

Endurance was studied using a treadmill, mice treated with LAMZ were less tired and walked a greater distance than untreated mice.

In an interview with medical news today, Dr. Joseph Watso, assistant professor at Florida State University, who was not involved in the study, explained:

“It is exciting to see that while the changes in distance traveled by the animals were small (approximately 2%), the increases in adjusted peak muscle strength and muscle fiber width were quite substantial after 14 days of LAMZ administration. ..

Using genetic analysis, the researchers showed that LAMZ increased the number of mitochondria – the powerhouse of the cell – in muscle and bone cells. They noted an increase in gene expression for PGC-1 alpha, a protein known to maintain muscle and bone cells and increase mitochondria production.

“PCG1a is a known transcriptional coactivator that increases mitochondrial biogenesis. This is an interesting feature of the agent they identified, as mitochondrial biogenesis is a physiological adaptation characteristic of physical training,” Dr. Watso explained to MNT.

To better understand the pathway, the researchers orally administered LAMZ to mice while blocking PGC-1 alpha. They found no increase in muscle strength, indicating the effects of LAMZ on muscle and bone via PGC-1 alpha.

3D images of bone samples generated using Micro-CT showed an increase in thickness, density and bone mineral content, confirming the results of the cellular study of a formation increased and reduced bone loss.

“We were delighted to find that the LAMZ-treated mice exhibited greater muscle fiber width, greater peak muscle strength, higher rate of bone formation, and lower bone resorption activity,” commented the author. lead author of the study, Takehito Ono.

The study showed that LAMZ can strengthen bones and muscles without negative effects on surrounding tissues, and can work as a therapeutic drug by invigorating muscles and bones via PGC-1α, mimicking physical exercise.

Dr Watso summarized the findings:

“The article provides compelling animal evidence of an agent with strong potential to improve bone and muscle health. Like most agents evaluated in animals, the next key question is whether these findings will translate to humans. Of course, without any harmful side effects that might not have been seen in animal studies.

He warned that “it will be an arduous task to develop an elixir of health to replace the myriad benefits of regular physical activity and exercise. That said, continued efforts are needed to reduce the incidence and burden associated with preventable diseases.

In some cases, medication may be the safer option than exercise, but whenever possible, “exercise should be the first consideration for those with the ability to be physically active,” he said. Dr Watson.

Despite this, “it is certainly worth continuing to examine population-specific risk factors and pathophysiology for potential treatment targets,” he added.

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