Scientists Cook Up ‘Exercise in a Pill’ That Mimics Workout Gains

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In the States, there’s a team of scientists saying they’ve got a pill that could give you some of the perks of working out, without actually hitting the gym.

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This brand-spanking-new drug’s just a baby in the grand scheme of things, but the early tests on lab mice look promising. The stuff they’re calling SLU-PP-332 seems to kickstart a body process that’s usually only jogging along when you exercise.

Give it to mice every day, and it looks like it pumps up their muscles and stamina, no extra running on their little wheels needed.

At the big 2024 Spring meet-up of the American Chemical Society, the lead science guy, Bahaa Elgendy from Washington University, was all about how they’ve cracked a code that everyone else thought was too tricky.

They’re aiming at a part of our bodies’ chemistry that’s been labeled ‘undruggable’ cause it’s such a pain to get drugs to work on it. But it turns out, that might not be the case anymore.

If these lab coats can get this to work in people, Elgendy’s betting it could be a game-changer for some really tough health problems we’ve got, like brains going downhill or hearts giving out.

For a long time now, the brainiacs from all over have been trying to whip up an ‘exercise pill’ that can hand out the good stuff from working out to folks who can’t do it.

Getting physical flips all kinds of switches in the body that are ace for our health, but there’s this one pathway, tied to stuff called estrogen-related receptors (ERRs), that’s a real winner.

These ERRs are hanging out in our muscles, tickers, and noodles, and they’ve got their hands in a whole bunch of important pies like metabolism, staying healthy, growing, and all that jazz.

But, historically, they’re a tough nut to crack. Seems like pumping iron or taking a jog is the only way to get ’em going.

Teams at the University of Florida and Washington U in St. Louis have been on the case, trying to nail a drug that targets not just one, but three types of ERRs. That’s something no one’s pulled off till now.

Elgendy and his pals are so stoked about how far they’ve come, they’ve thrown together their own drug company, Pelago Pharmaceuticals. They’re betting big that they’ll get this thing into clinics and change the game.

In the labs, they’ve shown that when they dose up mice with SLU-PP-332, it bulks up the kind of muscle fibers in the critters that don’t tire out easy.

This means the little guys can last way longer and go farther on mini treadmills than their drug-free buddies. Probably ’cause their muscle cells are keeping the lights on better.

Later on, they found out that mice downing SLU-PP-332 twice a day for a month hardly put on any fat compared to the control group, even though they all had the same chow and ran the same amount.

“This stuff’s pretty much coaching the muscles to do what they’d do if the mice were training for a marathon,” said UF’s pharmacy expert Thomas Burris when they first showed off the results in 2023.

“When you give the mice the drug, their whole system starts burning fat for fuel, kinda like what happens when you’re skipping meals or working out. Then they start shedding pounds.”

It’s not like this SLU-PP-332 is a total stand-in for a good sweat session, but it does seem to flip on a switch that gives lots of exercise benefits to parts like the heart, brain, and kidneys.

They’re even cooking up new versions of SLU-PP-332 that could get into your brain, which could help keep the cells there in top form.

“A bunch of people can’t get moving, and having a pill that can either copy or boost the exercise effect would be a huge help,” Elgendy mentioned in a video from the American Chemical Society shindig on YouTube.

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