Imagine being able to “exercise” whilst sitting on the sofa with your feet up. It sounds too good to be true, but researchers at the Salk Institute have found two drugs that could allow you to do just that. The first, known as AICAR, allowed mice given the drug for four weeks to run for 44% longer than those left untreated – and without any exercise at all.
For the slightly more energetic amongst you, the second drug GW1516 lead to a 77% increase in endurance amongst mice who ran for up to 50 minutes on a treadmill whilst undergoing the treatment.
The scientists were looking for a way to active a genetic switch known as PPAR delta, which had previously been flipped in mice through genetic engineering. These engineered mice became super-runners, and also became resistant to weight gain. Dr. Ronald M. Evans who led the team at the Salk Institute’s Gene Expression Laboratory said “We wanted to know whether a drug specific for PPAR delta would have the same beneficial effects.”
Performance enhancing drugs are always a temptation for athletes, not just those looking to avoid exercising, but Evans is one step ahead of anyone attempting to use his research to gain an edge in sporting competitions. He has developed a technique that will detect both AICAR and GW1516 in blood and urine, and is working with the World Anti-Doping Association who hope to have a test ready for the Olympics in Beijing which are due to start next week.
So, if (and it’s the usual if) the drugs turn out to have no nasty side effects, one day you could be working on your muscles whilst relaxing in front of the TV. If only…