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Fitness & Health

05th Oct 2022

Scientists are on the brink of developing a pill that can replicate exercise

Jack Peat

Trials on mice have targetted fat-storing stem cells

Scientists have made a significant breakthrough in their quest to find a pill that can replicate exercise.

In news that will come as cause for celebration for many, MIT researchers have been targetting fat-storing stem cells in mice to see if they can manipulate them.

They found that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are key when it comes to the effects of exercise.

Going for a run or heading down the gym will decrease the cell’s ability to morph into fat-storing cells, the study found, meaning that similar effects can be created if scientists are able to manipulate them.

Lead author of the study Dr Manolis Kellis, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: “It is extremely important to understand the molecular mechanisms that are drivers of the beneficial effects of exercise and the detrimental effects of a high-fat diet.

“We can understand how we can intervene, and develop drugs that mimic the impact of exercise across multiple tissues.”

The research into MSCs stem cells was carried out in mice, where two groups of rodents were fed a high-fat or normal diet for three weeks.

After being split into inactive and exercise groups, with access to treadmills, the scientists made a startling discovery.

They found that in different types of tissue, the MSCs were the factor that controlled the effect of diet and exercise.

A high-fat diet increased their ability to morph into fat-storing cells, while exercise had the opposite effect.

Unfortunately, it could be years before a tablet to do this hits the shelves, so for now there is nothing better than exercise and healthy diet, the team said.

“The message for everyone should be, eat a healthy diet and exercise if possible”, Dr Kellis said.

“For those for whom this is not possible, due to low access to healthy foods, or due to disabilities or other factors that prevent exercise, or simply lack of time to have a healthy diet or a healthy lifestyle, what this study says is that we now have a better handle on the pathways, the specific genes, and the specific molecular and cellular processes that we should be manipulating therapeutically.”

The findings were published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

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