AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: fitness

Marathon Mice – How an Exercise Mimicking Drug is Helping Mice Lose Weight

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Our little furry friends are well known for their appetite for cheese and delectable crumbs, so it’s entirely understandable if they put on a couple of extra pounds. But modern medicine may have just found a safe and reliable remedy to their gluttony. In a study conducted by a University of Florida professor of pharmacy, a new wonder drug has allowed mice to get into marathon shape without them even “lifting a paw.” SLU-PP-332 belongs to a class of drugs known as “exercise mimetics” – pharmaceuticals that allow the body to reap the benefits of working out while simultaneously circumventing any physical exertion.

The study found that mice that received the drug experienced a sharp drop in body fat percentage without a change in appetite. By boosting and catalyzing the body’s existing metabolism of fat, the drug is able to burn fat that would usually require endurance exercise or prolonged aerobic threshold exertion. Thomas Burris, the lead researcher, summarized its metabolic effects, saying, “This compound is basically telling skeletal muscle to make the same changes you see during endurance training.”

So why is body fat so stubborn to metabolize in the first place? The answer lies in its chemical structure. Lipids, unlike their carbohydrate cousins, are particularly difficult to break down. Take the mouse’s coveted Swiss cheese as an example: it’s a saturated fat that, although delicious, is unhealthy. It has fatty acid chains with single bonds between its carbon atoms; consequently, the chains pack closely together and layer upon each other. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, are the body’s quick and accessible source of energy. It’s going to choose the easier task and consume carbs in the bloodstream over stored fat. Hydrolysis, which occurs extensively in the digestive system, facilitates the breaking apart of carbohydrate polymers. It’s a primary and preferred means of sourcing energy via glucose, ribose, or fructose that doesn’t require the extra thirty minutes of jogging to tap into fat reserves.

I think exercise mimetics could be useful for athletes who are sidelined by medical treatment for an extended period of time, but I find its commercial application for dietary convenience troubling. I think it could become a cheap way to circumvent the discipline and timely cost of serious physical exercise. What do you think: will these mimetics compromise the integrity of exercise? Maybe one day humans will be able to maintain an elite physique while sustaining a diet of cheese and crackers, but for now, bike, run, swim, dance, lift, push, and use the human body to the fullest of its wondrous capabilities!

Junk Food Encourages Disease

According to a recent discovery posted in Science News, a typical American diet, consisting of poorly nutritional foods, leaves one prone to getting sick by weakening their immune system. Interestingly enough, this issue is rooted in cells that are not your own. In your gut microbiome, there are countless varieties and numbers of bacteria, all working away at the food that passes through your gut. Now, these bacteria are actually quite manipulative, and besides from feeding off of the food that you eat, teach your immune system what to attack, like an instructor or tutor for your immune system, albeit a biased one. These bacteria have colonized your body. They’re not just going to let some pathogen get in the way of their free meal ticket.

(What it looks like in there)

What happens when you eat certain foods, like junk foods, is that your gut microbiome changes. Different bacteria thrive on the fatty or sugary foods while other bacteria that survive off of more complex starches and carbs fade away, changing the demographic of your gut microbiome. This limited variety also limits the amount of invaders your immune system knows as hostile, or understands how to deal with, and therefore, you are more susceptible to disease, or medical complications.

(Actual photo of a biofilm found in the gut)

This was proven by taking samples from fit and obese humans and inserting them in otherwise sterile mice. Their resulting microbiomes grew, and the mice with the obese implant suffered more medical problems than the mice with the fit implant. This is because there were not enough “trainer” bacteria in the first mice’s gut to help train it to fend off disease, and thus it got sick more easily. So don’t go blaming your immune system the next time you get sick. It may be your fault for avoiding real, nutritional food (not just salad), and not taking care of it.

The moral of the story is to eat your vegetables and serve the bacterial overlords that have taken host in your body.

They’re good for you.

Trust me.


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