Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Whether one can call it a miracle finding or just the result of an academic study, recent reports from a group of scientists from Singapore that Myostatin, an integral part of muscle activity, can play a vital role in enabling the body to go for a fat-burning mode of energy generation, will have some far reaching implications. According to this group if Myostatin synthesis can be some what blocked or slowed down, muscle loss encountered during the aging process can be arrested enabling the humans to live longer. Here is the interesting hypotheses being put forward with a promise that further studies in this area can result in development of Myostatin blockers to achieve the desired result.

"Associate Professor Ravi Kambadur and his team from NTU's School of Biological Sciences found that a protein called Myostatin, which controls muscle cell growth, is responsible for initiating muscle loss. When excess levels of Myostatin is bound to a muscle cell, it induces heavy loss of mitochondria (the part of the cell responsible for energy production that keeps a cell alive), which in turn causes the muscle cell to waste or lose muscle tissue (atrophy) due to the 'lack of energy'. Under normal healthy conditions, small loss of Mitochondria is needed for the regeneration of new cells, but when a patient is suffering from chronic diseases or is bedridden (and muscles are not used often), this process is disrupted due to high levels of myostatin which results in increased mitochondrial loss and muscle atrophy. Prof Kambadur said recent studies have shown that extreme muscle wasting can lead to death. "For example, about 30 per cent of cancer patients die not because of cancer, but because of muscle loss also known as cachexia," said Prof Kambadur. "When someone is suffering from a chronic disease and doesn't eat enough, the body starts to generate energy by breaking down muscle proteins and that is the reason we see a lot of muscle wasting under chronic disease conditions," he added. "Over the years, our research has revealed that this type of muscle wasting is initiated by excess levels of myostatin in the body. If we block myostatin from binding to cells, then muscles won't waste away and we can then mitigate the effects of ageing and chronic diseases," he added. Apart from regulating the growth and loss of muscle, myostatin also regulates whether the body will burn fat or carbohydrates during fasting and meal times. Blocking myostatin keeps the body in "fat-burning mode" and promotes muscle growth at the same time - which could potentially make obesity a thing of the past. Because obesity is one of the main causes of the most common form of diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, blocking myostatin could also treat diabetes. In the US, 90 to 95 per cent of diabetes cases are Type 2, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to Singapore's Health Promotion Board, diabetes is among the top ten causes of death locally. In 2010, it was reported by Ministry of Health that 11.3 per cent of the Singaporean adults aged 18 to 69 years are affected by diabetes while 10.8 percent were obese. "In near future, myostatin blockers could increase fat utilisation in the body and give you the benefits of exercise, without actually doing intense physical activity," Prof Kambadur explained."
Obesity control is another area of concern and Myostatin blocking can indeed persuade the body to burn more fat, those struggling to control or lose their body weight will have great hope for overcoming this scourge. Similarly diabetes patients, most of whom are obese or over weight, may also be benefited by possible Myostatin blockers for which search is still on. An uncertainty that can still pre-empt the use of such blockers is whether such a treatment regime can have any deleterious consequences vis-a-vis other metabolic functions of the body. The above studies have given a ray of hope to millions of obese as well as diabetic patients to restore their health through this possible route. Losing weight without undergoing rigorous exercise is also an attractive proposition to many people including sick and convalescing patients. Also the old and aged people will stand to benefit by recourse to possible Myostatin blocker which is supposed to prevent undesirable muscle loss during the aging process cutting short their productive lives.  


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