Monday, October 22, 2007

Grow muscles as a Marvel character or The Real Mighty Mouse

MIT Technology review has a very interesting piece about a new kind of drugs that could help with muscle degenerating conditions and also could trigger the growth of additional muscle mass in normal individuals. The drugs act upon certain proteins that regulate the growth of muscle mass, concretely myostatin that blocks such growth and follistatin, which enhances it, both of them belong to the Transforming Growth Factor beta superfamily of proteins.

Knocking out myostatin and overexpressing follistatin causes mice to grow muscles four times bigger than wild type mice. It was known that myostatin played a significant role in the growth of muscular tissue, and that mutations of it have arisen naturally in several breeds of animals such as cows, sheep and dogs. Mimicking the myostatin receptor and thus preventing the binding of myostatin to its real target in mice causes an increase of 60% in muscle mas in a month. Trials are expected to begin in early 2008.

Here is a picture that compares a wild type mice and a myostatin lacking, follistatin overexpressing mouse:

The possibilities open by this are incredible, not only for the sick people, but also for the astronauts, in order to avoid loss of muscle due to microgravity and for people who just want to increase their muscles without years of effort. Since it seems that the muscular increase due to this drugs is likely to have much less secondary effects than steroids, I do not see any reason to not to allow these drugs in athletic competitions, given the fact that these competitions are separated from traditional ones, where non-enhanced athletes must remain and where all enhancing shall be severely punished, but, for the Enhanced Leagues, everything that is not health threatening must be allowed. It is time for those who are not blessed for the genetic lottery to use the technology to become competition athletes if they wish so. I do not know why somebody who achieves a record thanks to a striking mutation that his/her opponents lack, and lots of effort is morally superior to somebody who "cheats" and use pharmacological help and lots of effort to to achieve exactly the same effect in performance given by this hypothetical mutation.

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Ál said...

What about the side effects?, the ones from steroids are particulary nasty. you said less than that, how much less.

On the other hand, agree, if science could defeat the random genetic lottery, is a big step.

Guido said...

Al, I am not sure about the side effects in this case, however, steroids are substances that act in almost every cell in the body, they have a broad action. Myostatin is not like that, it is very specific on its role, and I doubt that its side effects will be very serious as its effect is very localized.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

Anonymous said...

Sounds great... could make bodybuilders grow even bigger . Limits will move and sportmen could grow really HUGE and massive. Bodybuilding as a sport will change radically and forever.