Researchers from University of Lausanne and EPFL University in Switzerland have developed genetically altered mice that have far higher physical endurance than regular mice. These “mighty mice” are able to run almost 50 percent further and for 20 minutes longer, while looking no different than their unaltered cousins, save for slightly larger muscles.
These are not the first genetically modified, high-endurance mice, but these new mice require no extra food to run longer and
further farther. The study tweaked the gene that controls the body’s burning of fatty acids. Earlier experiments on mice focused on the consumption of glucose, the fuel for sprinting and explosive muscle power. The slightly larger muscles on these new mice were able to perform better without extra food. By burning body fat for better muscle performance, instead of glucose, the new mice did not require the higher glucose supply that the earlier high-endurance mice needed.
“If you are thinking about glucose you are talking about the sprinting muscles – we are talking about the marathon muscles,” said Professor Johan Auwerx, lead researcher. “This is not like a sledgehammer or an on-off switch, it is like a dimmer. If you want to treat a patient you do not want to make a superman, you want to protect the muscle so it does not degrade.”
The new research, published in the journal Cell, could lead to new advancements in maintaining muscle health in old age, and new drugs to treat muscle-wasting diseases.