Have Scientists Found a Replacement for Exercise?

Pablo Tucker
January 15, 2020

For three weeks, the team trained the flies on the makeshift treadmill and compared the ability of the normal, control group to run and fly with that of flies that were bred to lack the ability to make sestrin.

Researchers have identified a protein that may be responsible for numerous benefits of a good workout, an advance that could eventually help combat muscle wasting due to ageing and other causes.

The beneficial effects of Sestrin include more than just improved endurance and physical performance.

To test their theory, the research team had to whip a bunch of fruit flies into shape.

Researchers at the University of MI have found that a naturally occurring class of proteins, Sestrin, can greatly mimic the effects of exercise in flies and mice.

"We propose that Sestrin can coordinate these biological activities by turning on or off different metabolic pathways", says physiologist Jun Hee Lee from the University of MI.

What's more, when they overexpressed Sestrin in the muscles of normal flies, essentially maxing out their Sestrin levels, they found those flies had abilities above and beyond the trained flies, even without exercise.

For another portion of the study mice were also bred to not be able to produce Sestrin: Typically normal mice should demonstrate respiration, fat burning, and aerobic capacity improvement with exercise, but this group of nice had no improvements after training. "The flies without Sestrin did no longer pork up with exercise".

"We propose that Sestrin can coordinate these biological activities by turning on or off different metabolic pathways".

"This independent study again highlights that Sestrin alone is sufficient to produce many benefits of physical movement and exercise", Lee said.

In addition to being used by the Average Jane or Joe to keep fit, it could also be used to treat maladies brought upon by old age, disease, or injury, such as loss of muscle mass/strength; for example, preventing atrophy in immobilized muscle groups, such as when a broken limb is put in a cast or natural muscle loss brought about by the aging process.

The global fitness and health club industry generates more than 80 billion USA dollars in revenue per year, so it's pretty easy to see that Americans are generally preoccupied with how they look and feel.

Can sestrin supplements be on the horizon? Not quite, says Lee.

Dr Kim said: 'Sestrins are not small molecules, but we are working to find small molecule modulators of Sestrin'. Studies can be used as a treatment or fitness for people who cannot exercise in the future.

Reference: Kim et al.

"Sestrin upregulation mimics both molecular and physiological effects of exercise, suggesting that it could be a major effector of exercise metabolism", write the researchers in their published paper. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-13442-5. Note: material may have been edited for length and content.

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