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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Exercise in a Pill?

The worst part about working out is getting yourself to the gym. For most of us exercising is easy enough; just push through and once you’re done you’ll feel on top of the world. Exercising raises self-esteem and helps reduce the risk of weight-related diseases such as heart disease, and diabetes.

It is important to abide by a healthy diet and get our butts off the couch on a daily basis, but what about those people that can’t? Those with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, for example, would benefit greatly from exercise but simply are not physically capable. What if they could take a pill instead? Exercise in a pill? Would it help decrease obesity and diabetes rates or simply breed more couch potatoes?

In 1998 a hormone known as PGC1-alpha was discovered. In 2002 biologists discovered that PGC1 plays an important role in triggering exercise-like actions in muscles. Through controlled testing on mice, PGC1-alpha in muscle is resistant to age-related diabetes. As the study progressed, it was found that PGC1-alpha actually controls the secretion of a molecule we now know as Irisin. Irisin is secreted by muscle tissue when subjected to strenuous exercise.

There are two types of fat cells, brown and white. Lean people have more brown fat than overweight or obese individuals. In very overweight people, the brown fat is either inactive or completely absent. The question is whether people become obese because they lack enough brown fat or whether the brown fat disappears once a person becomes obese.

Irisin is secreted by the muscles of the body when engaged in exercise, and helps convert white fat cells into these beneficial brown ones.

Because Irisin is a polypeptide, a series of bonded amino acids, it is possible to replicate this molecule. Scientists have been working towards transforming it into a drug that could potentially be injected into humans. They are also interested in making it in a pill form.

Irisin is still being studied and because it is naturally occurring, it will soon be tested on humans. If Irisin were to become FDA-approved as a drug, the biggest concern is that it would be used as an alternate for a daily workout. Whereas this may be the case, there is no true alternate for daily exercise.

Dr. Bruce Spiegelman of Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the study’s senior author, says that Irisin “opens up a lot of doors, and whether this makes it clinically or not, we can’t know that right now, but I can pretty much guarantee that we will push it as hard as we can.”

The discovery of the chemical could prove to be an important break-through, especially for those who are incapable of biologically producing it. It would also prove very beneficial for those individuals with ALS or other mobility-hindering diseases.

Irisin may produce a few extra couch potatoes, but it could also reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, and obesity.