Researchers from the University of Florida in the United States have successfully tested a new drug that mimics the benefits of rigorous exercise. Their study, conducted on obese mice, demonstrated the drug’s ability to increase metabolism, promote muscle gain, and facilitate weight loss.
While these results are promising, it’s important to note that it will be several years before the drug can be tested in human trials.
Regular exercise is known to have significant positive impacts on health, benefiting individuals with cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and certain cancers. Additionally, physical activity has been associated with improved brain health, reducing the risks of stress, depression, and dementia, according to the UK National Health Service (NHS).
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 2.5 to 5 hours of moderately intense weekly activity to enjoy these health benefits. Unfortunately, many adults and adolescents do not meet these recommendations.
In the quest to replicate the health benefits of physical activity, scientists have been exploring ways to mimic at least some of these effects.
The University of Florida research team, led by Thomas Burris, conducted a 28-day trial of a new drug called SLU-PP-332, which falls into a category of treatments known as “exercise mimetics.” These treatments aim to replicate the physiological adaptations associated with physical exercise.
The results, published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, showed that the mice treated with the drug experienced increased energy expenditure, meaning they burned more calories without changing their habits. They also accumulated less body fat and improved their metabolic systems.
The drug’s mechanism of action involves targeting estrogen-related receptors (ERRs) found within cells, especially in energy-demanding parts of the body like muscles, the heart, and the liver. Physical exercise typically boosts ERRs, and SLU-PP-332 replicates this effect.
Burris says, “When you treat mice with the drug, you can see that their whole body metabolism turns to using fatty acids, which is very similar to what people use when fasting or exercising.”
In the trial, the mice treated with the drug gained ten times less fat and lost 12 percent of their body weight compared to the control group. They also exhibited higher energy expenditure in their daily activities.
If further development is successful, this drug could hold significant potential for individuals with obesity, diabetes, or age-related muscle loss. It may help maintain the health of aging individuals. However, additional research, including investigating potential side effects, is necessary before human trials can commence.