Article: Study Promises Benefits of Exercise in a Pill
Author: Alexis Madrigal
Researchers at the Salk Institute have done studies showing that a drug called Aicar can mimic exercise in muscles by activating an enzyme that regulates a cell’s metabolism. ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) is broken down to create energy to move skeletal muscles, as when exercising. Among the elements ATP is broken into is AMP (Adenosine Monophosphate), which is what stimulates the body to create more ATP for energy use. Nutrients and proteins are needed to combine with AMP to produce more ATP, but the drug in this study is said to mimic AMP by increasing glucose uptake. Also, fast-twitch muscle fibers are converted to the long-lasting, energy-efficient, fat-burning, slow-twitch type. This results in prolonging the onset of cell fatigue and therefore a boost in muscle endurance.
History and Progression:
The use of steroids has helped with the creation of muscle mass, but not with the increase of endurance. Other studies have shown that a drug called resveratol has demonstrated possible anti-aging and metabolic-enhancing effects by modifying and enhancing mitochondrial functions. This is different from Aicar because resveratol stimulates different proteins and theoretically could have drastically different effects.
Salk Institute researchers have tested Aicar on mice who haven’t worked out, which have shown a 44% running endurance increase after 4 weeks.
Athletic authorities are concerned that the drug will be used to chemically enhance endurance in sports, such as in the Olympics. Ronald Evans, of the Salk Institute, has created a urine test to identify use of Aicar and has made it available to the International Olympic Committee.
Darrell Neufer, a sports medicine professor at East Carolina University, claims that “physical activity is so important for maintaining the health of the human body in almost every human organ system.” He believes that it will be almost impossible to create an easy remedy to replicate all the benefits of exercising. Even though the drug is not cell-specific, it seems risky to expose every cell to the potential effects of the drug.
The article does not mention anything about the replenishing of glucose by the drug. Some body systems crippled by diabetes will have difficulty managing glucose if their insulin levels are high while using Aicar.
Users of this drug would likely not experience the so-called “runner’s high,” that occurs after strenuous exercise when muscles use their stored glycogen and breathing is difficult. This likely combats seasonal and chronic depression, not to mention provides a sense of self-satisfaction for completing a strenuous task.
Theoretical pros of this science would be a simple way for people to “exercise” without exerting themselves. This may give people more time to complete tasks, so an overall increase in efficiency of people may occur.
The cons of using Aicar have not been documented currently. People would likely opt to buy a pill over the traditional means of being active. It is possible that the sports industry may see a decline in participants as people become lazier. People with diabetes may not be eligible to be treated with Aicar unless carefully supervised by a physician.
Aicar will undoubtedly need to be carefully regulated by Federal agencies, which I agree with. I believe that only certain individuals should be allowed to use the drug, such as morbidly obese people or others unable to participate in healthy activity. Others may believe that the drug should be available to everyone without discrimination.
It is possible that some religions will not approve of this pill because it circumvents a god’s intended methods of staying healthy. I personally see no religious issues surrounding this science.