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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Department A/Health Note

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Jessica Penney reports on new research into how lazy muscles can turn into well-trained ones, without exercise.


CURWOOD: Coming up, salmon farming is a big business. And it’s going to get bigger in British Columbia. First, this Environmental Health Note from Jessica Penney.


PENNEY: Researchers at the University of Texas say they may be able to turn lazy muscles into buff muscles without breaking a sweat. The scientists are studying how muscles change after extensive exercise. But, they work with mice. And it’s hard to get the rodents to run around on exercise wheels long enough to develop those marathon runner muscles.

So, they genetically engineered the mice. These mice produced a form of a protein that sets off a chain reaction, tricking the mouse muscles into thinking they are always being used. So, even though these mice didn’t exercise, they had the type of muscle that normally develops only after intensive training.

Based on this work, the researchers think that they might one day be able to design a drug that could stimulate this protein in people. That drug might improve the health of someone who is bedridden or help astronauts whose muscles have weakened after weightlessness. As for you couch potatoes out there, this isn’t the workout pill you’ve been waiting for. Researchers say the muscle-toned mice had none of the other cardiovascular benefits of exercise. That’s this week’s Health Update. I’m Jessica Penney.


CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.



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