Enhanced muscular tissue of a mouse
This is a picture of enhanced muscular tissue of a mouse

A team of scientists from the Salk Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne (EPFL) and the University of Lausanne have created super strong mice by controlling its natural muscle growth. This invention will help solve genetic muscular degeneration and other age-related problems.

The scientists changed the activity of certain genes by tweaking a genome regulator called NCOR1. They suppressed a thyroid hormone which regulates growth in most mammals and created mice that were twice as strong as normal.

According to Johan Auwerx, the lead author from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), "This could be used to combat muscle weakness in the elderly, which leads to falls and contributes to hospitalizations."

"In addition, we think that this could be used as a basis for developing a treatment for genetic muscular dystrophy."

"There are now ways to develop drugs for people who are unable to exercise due to obesity or other health complications, such as diabetes, immobility and frailty," said Ronald M Evans, a professor at the Salk Institute. "We can now engineer specific gene networks in muscle to give the benefits of exercise to sedentary mice."

It may be recalled that cell biology expert Norman S Wolf dealt with muscular degeneration in his book 'Comparative Biology on Aging.' Wolf had argued that by restricting calories and doing regular exercise, humans could slow aging process and reduce muscular degeneration.

In the present case, the mice, which underwent genetic mutation, became true marathoners, running faster and longer before showing any signs of fatigue. They were able to cover almost twice the distance compared to the normal mice. They also exhibited better tolerance to cold.

Unlike "genetic accelerators," the new work shows that suppressing an inhibitor is a new way to build muscle, which in this experiment confirmed that the muscle fibers of the modified mice are denser, more massive, and the cells in the tissue contain higher numbers of mitochondria-cellular organelles that deliver energy to the muscles.

Auwerx said that if these results were confirmed in humans, the experiment would attract attention especially from the athletes and medical experts.

The Salk Institute conducts biological research on molecular biology, genetics, neuroscience and plant biology. Five scientists from here have won Nobel Prizes.

Recently, the institute discovered a safer way to cure asthma, allergies and arthritis. It has also done research on a drug that reduces baldness.

The EPFL (Switzerland) focuses on education, research, technology and has conducted several researches on subjects like microbiology and robotics.