People who are elderly, obese or have health conditions that prevent them from exercising could soon see some of the benefits of working out, without ever lacing up their sneakers. Jane Ross reports.
These mice are are proof that the health benefits of exercise soon could be achieved by simply taking a pill. Scientists in California are working on a drug designed to reprogram the body to burn fat instead of sugar for fuel. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RONALD EVANS, PROFESSOR OF THE GENE EXPRESSION LABORATORY AT SALK INSTITUTE FOR BIOLOGICAL STUDIES, SAYING: "You can keep going on fat for a long time, as long as you keep the sugar going to the brain. And so the secret is how to reprogram that. It's promoting something, which is burning fat, and inhibiting something, which is burning sugar. That's what training does. Our pill does that without training." (SOUNDBITE) (English) WEIWEI FAN, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE AND THE FIRST AUTHOR OF THE PAPER, SAYING: "Exercise does a lot, a lot of things, so not only to the muscle but to the whole body, to the brain, to the heart, cardiovascular structure and everything. But in this case, we're only mimicking one fine remodeling process that happened in the muscle, so this is the metabolic shift from burning glucose to burning fat." The pill is comprised of a chemical compound called GW 1516 which reprograms the body on a genetic level. The team found that the chemical turns off genes that instruct the body to break down carbohydrates into energy while turning on genes that tell the body to burn fat. The researchers say that mice in this study were able to run 100 minutes longer after being dosed with the pill. But more surprisingly they found the mice showed signs of improved health without any exercise, and its this finding that could prove a game changer. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RONALD EVANS, PROFESSOR OF THE GENE EXPRESSION LABORATORY AT SALK INSTITUTE FOR BIOLOGICAL STUDIES, SAYING: "If you can drug it then you can bring the potential or the health benefits of exercise to people who can't exercise and there are many many people who can't exercise. And so this could be a life saving type of therapy for certain kinds of individuals." The scientists hope to start human trials within a year, offering the promise of a pill that could give the benefits of working out to the millions that can't.