Gene Mutation Makes Mice Twice as Strong, Fast

Nov 10, 2011 12:42pm

Move over, Mighty Mouse.

Swiss researchers say they’ve found a way to make mice twice as strong and fast as the average mouse.

By tweaking signals from a part of a gene that typically stalls muscle growth in worms and mice, researchers saw them transform to exhibit super strength.  

The mice with the gene mutation could run twice as fast and twice as long before getting tired, according to researchers, whose findings were published today in the journal Cell.

The same gene inhibitor may also be responsible for human strength, suggesting that the method these scientists used on the mice and worms could one day translate to humans.

Many experts said muscle responses in humans are similar to those in mice.

“It will be interesting to learn whether this mechanism increases muscle size through the normal stem cells in muscle, or whether it occurs mainly by just increasing the size of existing muscles,” said Dr. Elizabeth McNally, director of the Institute for Cardiovascular Research at the University of Chicago, who was not involved in the study.

The researchers observed  that muscle fibers in the mice with the mutation were denser, and the cells could deliver more energy to mice.

“This could be used to combat muscle weakness in the elderly, which leads to falls and contributes to hospitalization,” Johan Auwerx, the lead researcher, said in a statement.  

Some experts equated the new method to performance enhancers, such as supplements and steroids, fearing that the method could be abused by some athletes.

“While the use of this gene modulation is relatively far off in humans, it could open up Pandora’s box when it comes to the enhancing performance,” said Dr. Joseph Guettler, sports medicine orthopedic surgeon at William Beaumont Hospitals in Royal Oak, Mich.

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