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23.02.2010


Myostatin shot for more muscle

Myostatin shot for more muscle
Manipulating the protein myostatin has become even easier. In the Animal Science Journal researchers at the Chinese Sichuan Agricultural University describe how they made pigs more muscular by giving them four injections of myostatin. As a result of the injections, the pigs' immune system broke down the myostatin.

Myostatin is produced by muscle cells to limit their own growth. The more myostatin your muscles make, the more difficult it is to build up muscle mass and the easier it is to break it down. That's why researchers are studying ways to deactivate myostatin. Pharmaceuticals companies are already testing myostatin blockers in the hope that they can find ways of treating muscular diseases. But most myostatin research actually takes place at agricultural universities, where researchers are trying to help livestock farmers by developing monster-size salmon, cattle, chickens and pigs. The cattle are there already Belgian Blues for example because through a freak of nature they don't produce myostatin, as in the photo above.

The Chinese experimented with a simple technique: they got micro-organisms to produce myostatin and injected 1 mg or 4 mg of the protein into pigs on days 1, 14, 28 and 42 of an experiment that lasted 84 days. The pigs' immune systems regarded the protein as alien and produced antibodies to neutralise the myostatin. The amount of antibodies produced is shown in the figure below.


Myostatin shot for more muscle


The genes in the muscle cells that produce myostatin started to work less hard as a result of the myostatin injection.


Myostatin shot for more muscle


The results were predictable. The table below shows that the animals lost fat and gained muscle. While not spectacular, the effect is significant. The 4 mg injections worked as well as the 1 mg injections.


Myostatin shot for more muscle


There is much media speculation about the use of new doping substances by athletes, such as techniques that involve genetic manipulation. In practice these techniques are often not suitable for human use. What works in a lab is often too complicated to use in humans. But if a technique is simple enough for livestock farmers to use, then it should be suitable for athletes. It won't be long before we see myostatin manipulation in the doping world.

In fact, we wonder: is the hormone mafia already messing around with myostatin?

Source:
Anim Sci J. 2009 Oct 1; 80(5): 585-90.

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