Myostatin, a gene present in most animals, including humans, is a negative regulator of muscle growth. This means that when myostatin is expressed, muscle growth stops. This gene is involved in many interesting molecular pathways inside a cell. Recent studies have shown that myostatin may be overexpressed in damaged cells, or underexpressed in some rare cases. But what does this mean for you?
Myostatin is a very interesting gene. Animals and humans born without this gene, have a lot of muscle mass and basically look like bodybuilders with minimal work. This is because their body cannot stop muscle growth through the myostatin pathway. Interestingly, there appear to be no issues with this condition. No side effects.
But, some studies show that myostatin pathways are essential for cellular repair and avoidance of stress in cell organelles. Some scientists think that developing drugs that influence myostatin production will be effective in treating certain diseases.
Changes due to lack of myostatin are not always that dramatic. Some individuals may have reduced myostatin expression and others none at all. The result may be up to a doubling of muscle mass. All that with no side effects. It’s like steroids without all the side effects.
Actually, there are some steroids that affect the myostatin pathway (anabolic-androgenic steroids AAS). The issue with those is that they end up damaging the liver or having other side effects regarding hormonal regulation. Myostatin itself doesn’t seem to affect any of those. Which is great but we are very far from any gene therapies to reduce myostatin activity. Such treatments are still being developed but i think, developing those treatments for muscle growth, while may be profitable, is not a major priority.
The technology to develop such therapies though is progressing and getting cheaper too.
Josiah Zayner, a researcher who used to work for NASA, is developing such tools that allow people to engineer bacteria or even (potentially) their own bodies. Recently in a live Facebook video he injected himself with an enzyme that would delete the myostatin gene from his arm muscle cells. It didn’t hurt him, but it didn’t work either.
The reason it didn’t work is complicated, but is probably because he didn’t inject a big enough dosage. As he said in an interview. I think, such therapies would require high doses and repeated attempts, since some of our cells may have multiple copies of genes like myostatin. The real reason he did this and more detail on this can be found on this link.
Studying biology I always thought that steroids for muscle growth will always have side effects. As I got into healthcare sciences I keep finding that our bodies have amazing abilities and can handle many things. We just need to find the right way to induce the changes we want.
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Articles: Abuse of Supraphysiologic Doses of Anabolic Steroids , Myostatin-Related uscle Hypertrophy , The multi-systemic protection against age-related tissue function decline in progeric mice through the attenuation of myostatin/activin signalling , Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress Induces Myostatin High Molecular Weight Aggregates and Impairs Mature Myostatin Secretion ,