There’s a pill for exercise

2 minute read

Don’t all not rush at once.

Heart, brain, bones, muscles, mood: exercise is good for everything now.  

So if you’re a bit of a jog-dodger who would like to reap all the benefits, that headline may have really put a spring in your step. Sorry, but you’re probably not the target market.  

Exercise is great for strengthening bone and muscle, but for those with sarcopenia and osteoporosis who are already bedridden, or suffering from another condition such as dementia, drug therapy would be a Good Thing. A single pill for frail patients would be even better, given the downsides of polypharmacy.  

According to researchers from Tokyo Medical and Dental University, existing drugs for sarcopenia don’t actually target muscle loss, and drugs for bone loss do only that.  

So they set about developing a sequential drug-screening process to find a “locomomimetic” compound that would treat both conditions at once by simulating the effects of exercise, promoting myogenesis and osteoblastogenesis while suppressing osteoclastogenesis (try explaining this at a party).  

They screened 296 compounds from a library, first for their ability to generate muscle cells, then took the eight winners from that round and tested in two further steps how well they were able to boost bone cell production and stop bone cell elimination. The winner is a derivative of aminoindazole that they have affectionately dubbed locamindazole.  

When they tested the drug in mice, they found increased muscle fibre width and strength and ability to run further on a treadmill; the treated mice also had a higher rate of bone formation, more osteoblasts and fewer osteoclasts. There were no “obvious adverse effects on other tissues”.  

Through further investigations they discovered the mechanism of the process was through PGC-1-alpha expression via calcium signalling. 

Look out for “loco” to become the hot new drug on the seniors scene.  

If you see something that sounds too good to be true, flick it to 

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