Exercise in a Pill? Maybe
Experimental Compound Boosts Endurance in Lab Tests on Idle Mice
July 31, 2008 -- It may be possible to make a pill that captures the
endurance-boosting effects of exercise, scientists report in
So far, they've tested two compounds in lab tests in mice. One of those
compounds, called GW1516, boosted endurance in mice that exercised, but not in
sedentary mice. The other compound, called AICAR, improved endurance in mice
that didn't exercise at all.
Those compounds haven't yet been tested in people, and they're not on the
market. But the researchers are already working on a drug test to screen for
traces of GW1516 and AICAR in athletes' blood and urine.
Here's a quick look at the two compounds.
2004, the researchers -- who included professor Ronald M. Evans, PhD, of
the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Howard Hughes Medical
Institute in La Jolla, Calif. -- reported that they boosted endurance in mice
by tweaking a mouse gene to boost the activity of a protein called
Evans' team then worked on getting the same result without genetic
engineering. They squirted GW1516, which boosts PPAR-delta, into mice's mouths
every day for a month.
At the end of the month, the mice ran 68% longer and 70% farther than when
the experiment began -- but only if they had been running on exercise wheels
daily while taking the drug. GW1516 didn't do anything for mice that weren't
Next, the scientists focused on another protein called AMPK. They gave
sedentary mice a daily injection of AICAR, which boosts AMPK, for a month.
At the end of the month, those mice ran 23% longer and 44% farther than
before starting AICAR treatment. That is, their endurance had improved without
The results show that AMPK and PPAR-delta "can be targeted by orally
active drugs to enhance training or even to increase endurance without
exercise," write the researchers.
The mouse tests were all about skeletal muscles and endurance, not about the
drugs' safety or ability to mimic the many other benefits of exercise, such as
improving cardiovascular health and making some types of cancer less likely.