Development of Exercise Mimetics Will Recapitulate the Development of Calorie Restriction Mimetics

Exercise mimetics are drugs that can replicate some fraction of the beneficial effects of exercise; their development is in the early stages. I don't think it's too far-fetched to suggest that the next ten years of exercise mimetic development will look a lot like the last ten years of calorie restriction mimetic development. In other words there will be a couple of well-funded, well-hyped lines of research that fizzle out with nothing to show for it, some solid advances towards identifying mimetics that, for one reason or another, aren't terribly practical for clinical development, and all of that against a backdrop of across-the-board progress in understanding metabolic processes that relate to exercise and its long-term effects. But, you'll note, no actual products that are legally available for use by healthy people.

Absent the straitjacket regulation it would be a whole other story when it came to products and product development, of course, but we live in a world of centralized control and socialism for medicine for those regions that also boast the most active and capable research communities. It's unfortunate, and it needs to change.

In any case, here is an example of the sort of early stage work that will lead to exercise mimetic development. If you cast your mind back ten years or so, you'll see it looks just like the sort of research taking place into the mechanisms of calorie restriction back then.

We take it for granted, but the fact that our muscles grow when we work them makes them rather unique. Now, researchers have identified a key ingredient needed for that bulking up to take place. A factor produced in working muscle fibers apparently tells surrounding muscle stem cell "higher ups" that it's time to multiply and join in. ... In other words, that so-called serum response factor (Srf) translates the mechanical signal of work into a chemical one.

"This signal from the muscle fiber controls stem cell behavior and participation in muscle growth," says Athanassia Sotiropoulos of Inserm in France. "It is unexpected and quite interesting." It might also lead to new ways to combat muscle atrophy. ... Srf works through a network of genes, including one known as Cox2. That raises the intriguing possibility that commonly used Cox2 inhibitors - think ibuprofen - might work against muscle growth or recovery, Sotiropoulos notes. ... "It may be difficult to find a beneficial amount of Srf," she says. "Its targets, interleukins and prostaglandins, may be easier to manipulate."

And so this will lead to a tree of research spanning the next few years, in parallel to a web of other, similar spreading investigations of proteins and genes and their effects on exercise.


There is already a small body of research demonstrating that continued use of NSAIDs stunts muscular adaptations to exercise in athletes. We also know that prostaglandins influence the anabolic response of skeletal muscle to weight training. Some of the more savvy bodybuilders seek out arachadonic acid for this reason. Arachadonic acid, you may know, is pro-inflammatory. Bodybuilders who ingest it regularly report increased muscle soreness after workouts, but also improved strength and size gains. The NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) has done a serious of studies on using NSAIDs to help athletes recover. NSAIDs improve perceived muscle soreness, but the experimental groups invariably show lower improvements in strength than the controls. I suggest that Athanassia is unfamiliar with this research because (1) She is not a bodybuilder, (2) The research was mostly done in small studies in the NSCA peer-reviewed journal, which is (3) Only available to professional strength coaches.

Posted by: EM at February 18th, 2014 3:35 PM

Correction: Some studies report no difference strength gains between control and experimental groups in using NSAIDs. I had done reading on this in 2007 and, as happens, the literature marched on. :)

Posted by: EM at February 18th, 2014 3:49 PM
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