Bethesda, MD—As science rushes to develop safe weight loss drugs, a new research report approaches this problem from an entirely new angle: What if there were a pill that would make you want to exercise harder? It may sound strange, but a new research report appearing online in The FASEB Journal suggests that it might be possible. That's because a team of Swiss researchers found that when a hormone in the brain, erythropoietin (Epo), was elevated in mice, they were more motivated to exercise. In addition, the form of erythropoietin used in these experiments did not elevate red blood cell counts. Such a treatment has obvious benefits for a wide range of health problems ranging from Alzheimer's to obesity, including mental health disorders for which increased physical activity is known to improve symptoms.
"Here we show that Epo increases the motivation to exercise," said Max Gassmann, D.V.M., a researcher involved in the work from the Institute of Veterinary Physiology, Vetsuisse-Faculty and Zurich Center for Integrative Human Physiology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. "Most probably, Epo has a general effect on a person's mood and might be used in patients suffering from depression and related diseases."
To make this discovery, Gassmann and colleagues used three types of mice: those that received no treatment, those that were injected with human Epo, and those that were genetically modified to produce human Epo in the brain. Compared to the mice that did not have any increase in Epo, both mouse groups harboring human Epo in the brain showed significantly higher running performance without increases in red blood cells.
"If you can't put exercise in a pill, then maybe you can put the motivation to exercise in a pill instead," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "As more and more people become overweight and obese, we must attack the problem from all angles. Maybe the day will come when gyms are as easily found as fast food restaurants."
Receive monthly highlights from The FASEB Journal by e-mail. Sign up at http://www.faseb.org/fjupdate.aspx. The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org) is published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and is the most cited biology journal worldwide according to the Institute for Scientific Information. In 2010, the journal was recognized by the Special Libraries Association as one of the top 100 most influential biomedical journals of the past century. FASEB is composed of 26 societies with more than 100,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. Celebrating 100 Years of Advancing the Life Sciences in 2012, FASEB is rededicating its efforts to advance health and well-being by promoting progress and education in biological and biomedical sciences through service to our member societies and collaborative advocacy.
Details: Beat Schuler, Johannes Vogel, Beat Grenacher, Robert A. Jacobs, Margarete Arras, and Max Gassmann. Acute and chronic elevation of erythropoietin in the brain improves exercise performance in mice without inducing erythropoiesis. FASEB J. doi:10.1096/fj.11-191197 ; http://www.fasebj.org/content/early/2012/06/08/fj.11-191197.abstract
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