New Cell Target Increases Exercise Metabolism

Increases Exercise Metabolism

Infrared images of mice after performing low intensity exercise, left is control.
Credit: Leonid Zingman, University of Iowa

A new study finds that reducing the levels of a cell channel protein increases exercise metabolism, a discovery that might result in a new weight loss therapy.

As the obesity epidemic continues to spread researchers are trying to find new efficient ways of losing weight. One problem with dieting is that our bodies are so adapted to starvation it can make cells more energy efficient making weight loss that much harder. Just being able to increase resting metabolism might provide the extra boost needed to start losing weight. Earlier studies in this area have tried to increase metabolism by activating brown fat, but there might be another way. New research from University of Iowa Health Care target a protein that increases exercise metabolism by making muscles less energy efficient.

Vivo-morpholino Increases Exercise Metabolism

In this study published in molecular therapy researchers target a cell channel to override muscles’ “energy saving” mode making them burn more calories. Using this approach might help people overcome the first “hurdle” in trying to lose weight.

“This study shows for the first time that this energy efficiency can be manipulated in a clinically translatable way. While such an approach would not replace the need for a healthy diet or exercise, it could jump start the process of weight loss by overcoming the initial hurdles imposed by our energy-efficient physiology.” says study co-author Denice Hodgson-Zingman

Earlier research have found that a protein, ATP sensitive potassium (KATP) channel can influence energy efficiency of skeletal muscles.  Building upon this Iowa researchers discovered that reducing the production of KATP actually boost the amount of calories burned by muscle cells during exercise by reducing energy efficiency.

However lowering the efficiency of all muscles in the body wouldn’t be advisable since muscles controlling breathing and heart function might be affected. To get around this issue researchers designed a compound called vivo-morpholino that only suppress production of KATP locally.

Researchers injected the compound into hind limb muscles of mice. The injections didn’t affect production of KATP in other organs or muscles and it worked. Reducing the amount of KATP increased the exercise metabolism in the hind leg muscle and didn’t reduce muscle stamina or cause other serious side effects in the mice.