A Genetic Tweak Could Hulk Out Your Muscles

Some frighteningly muscular mice and nematode worms are running and squirming around a laboratory in Switzerland where scientists have genetically manipulated the critters to be harder, faster and stronger.

Personally I like mine to be very scared of me and scurry far, far away. But in a study published in the November 10 issue of Cell, scientists describe how they created creatures who might be up for a tussle.

Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland and the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California manipulated a genetic inhibitor called the "NCoR1 cosuppressor," which normally inhibits the build-up of muscles. By inhibiting the inhibitor, they made mice that could develop muscle tissue much more effectively, allowing the mice to run faster and longer—nearly twice the distance—than puny normal mice. They also exhibited improved cold tolerance—weird, but seems like a bonus! They observed similar results in the worms.

The muscle tissue grew denser fibers and was generally more massive. The cells in the muscle tissue also contained more mitochondria—which deliver power to cells—than normal muscle.

But don't get too excited that you'll never have to pick up another dumbbell. Scientists have reported several "mighty mice" but there's nothing analogous in humans yet. Plus you can't go around tweaking genes like that in humans, so researchers are looking for drugs that might have the same effect. I just hope the side effects don't include turning green and anger management issues. [Cell]

Image: Shutterstock/Emilia Stasiak