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“Exercise activates gene pathway, but we’re showing that you can do the same thing without mechanical training. It means you can improve endurance to the equivalent level as someone in training, without all of the physical effort,” said Weiwei Fan, research associate at Salk Institute in San Diego, US.
In the study, appearing in the journal Cell Metabolism, the scientists found that a chemical compound called GW1516 (GW) allowed mice both normal and sedantary to run on a treadmill for 270 minutes before they got exhausted.
Conversely, the mice that went without the drug lasted only 160 minutes before reaching their physical limit.
For both groups, exhaustion set in when blood sugar (glucose) dropped to around 70 mg/dl, suggesting that low glucose levels (hypoglycemia) were responsible for fatigue.
For the study, the team conducted a series of tests with mice on treadmills.
They found that in response to the drug, the activity of nearly 1,000 genes was changed, either becoming suppressed or increased.
Genes whose expression increased were ones that regulate breaking down and burning fat. Genes that convert sugar into energy, were some of those which were suppressed.