Everybody knows about the many long-term health benefits of regular exercise, including a decreased risk of developing diabetes, an increased lifespan and an expanded lung capacity. But what if we can reap these benefits without actually exercising? That would certainly shake up everyone’s new year resolutions. Indeed, in a recent study, scientists discovered that a family of proteins known as Sestrins can actually mimic the beneficial effects of exercise.
Sestrins are proteins that are conserved throughout all animals, and their expression is increased when we exercise. Sestrins have many previously studied important functions, such as regulating certain metabolic activity, and also serving as an antioxidant to reduce oxidative damage in cells. However, the role of Sestrins in response to exercise is still unknown. Kim et al. decided to look further into this mystery by deleting the gene encoding Sestrins in flies. They found that the beneficial effects from exercise, namely increased stamina, improved flight performance, and increased fat metabolism, are removed when Sestrins are eliminated. On the other hand, when they artificially increase the amount of Sestrins in the muscles, the flies were able to reap these beneficial effects even without exercising. They repeated the experiments in mice and were able to produce similar results even though mice and flies are genetically very different.
This discovery is exciting not just for people who are trying to reach their 2020 new year’s resolutions, but also for the elderly or people with disabilities who have difficulty moving. Therapies targeting Sestrins could help the elderly maintain a healthy body even at an advanced age, and this could potentially be indispensable as our life span increases and our society ages. However, before we delve into developing drugs to increase Sestrins in our bodies, more work needs to be done to understand the long-term effects of artificially boosting Sestrins. Sestrins play multiple roles in our bodies, and thus we need to understand the mechanics and possible side effects from them. For now, we should stick to our new year’s resolutions and get back on the treadmill.
Managing Correspondent: Wei Li
News Article: A replacement for exercise? ScienceDaily.
Protein Proffers Exercise Health Gains, without the Pain. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News.
Original Article: Sestrins are evolutionarily conserved mediators of exercise benefits. Nature Communications.