Regular exercise is widely regarded as a key factor in maintaining overall health and preventing many chronic diseases. It has been called a “polypill” by doctors because of its ability to prevent and treat multiple conditions associated with aging.
A new study sheds light on how exercise affects gene expression in muscle fibers, potentially leading to the development of drugs that mimic its benefits for people unable to exercise.
The study, published in The Journal of Physiology, compared the effects of exercise on gene expression in muscle fibers from mice that had access to an exercise wheel and those that did not. The researchers found that exercise promoted the “epigenetic reprogramming” of chromosomes in the cells’ nuclei, essentially turning back the clock on aging muscle fibers.
Epigenetics refers to how chemical changes affect the activity or “expression” of genes. Transcription factors, proteins that bind to specific DNA sequences, can dial up the expression of particular genes. Exercise induces the expression of transcription factor Myc, which in turn leads to the expression of other genes associated with more youthful muscle fibers.
The researchers also compared the effects of Myc to the effects of four transcription factors known as OKSM, which can revert specialized, mature cells to more youthful, flexible cells called pluripotent stem cells.
The study found that exercise-induced the expression of Myc to a greater extent than the other three factors.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Kevin Murach, assistant professor at the Exercise Science Research Center at the University of Arkansas, believes that the findings may lead to the development of drugs that supercharge the exercise response of muscles in people who are confined to bed or the muscles of astronauts in zero gravity.
However, he emphasizes that exercise has beneficial effects throughout the body, not just in muscle, and that Myc has been linked to cancer, so there are inherent risks in artificially boosting its expression.
The study also notes that drugs such as metformin and rapamycin, which are gaining a reputation as “life-extending” drugs, may actually block some of the beneficial effects of exercise on muscle. Evidence suggests that these drugs interfere with the positive benefits of exercise, specifically in skeletal muscle, according to Dr. Murach.
The researchers acknowledge that their study had some limitations. The type of exercise, training status, biological sex, and other factors may affect gene expression changes associated with exercise. They also emphasize the importance of investigating the functional consequences of epigenetic reprogramming in skeletal muscle.
Despite these limitations, the study’s findings could provide important clues for future anti-aging therapies.
Exercise is widely recognized as a low-cost and effective way to maintain overall health. The study’s findings could lead to the development of drugs that mimic its benefits for people unable to exercise.
Exercise is also an important component of healthy aging. Exercise physiologists recommend low-impact, full-body workouts with a focus on the lower body and core for people over 70, along with resistance and mobility training. Walking is another activity recommended for older adults, along with strength training at least two days a week and mobility training, including stretching, every day.
In conclusion… the study’s findings add to the growing body of research on the positive effects of exercise on overall health and could lead to the development of drugs that mimic its benefits for people unable to exercise. While the study had some limitations, it highlights the importance of investigating the functional consequences of epigenetic reprogramming in skeletal muscle and underscores the importance of regular exercise for healthy aging.