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Biotech Science

Mutation Creates SuperKid 747

Posted by michael
from the at-least-he-still-needs-to-sleep dept.
Tzarius writes "It's not exactly regular Slashdot fare, but the NYTimes has a story about a kid in Berlin (now 4 years old) who was born with naturally massive muscles. It's not a new condition, but it apparently hasn't been recorded in humans before. It also looks like the cause is a suppression of the myostatin protein, which could be reproducible." Reader Spazmasta adds "A gene that blocks production of a muscle-limiting protein (called myostatin) has been found in a abnormally muscular German baby. This news comes apparently 7 years after researchers at Johns Hopkins created 'mighty mice' through a related approach, turning off the gene that produces the muscle-limiting protein. I, for one, welcome our new myostatin-free overlords."
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Mutation Creates SuperKid

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  • by foidulus (743482) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:05AM (#9517592)
    he was born to become the governor of California!
  • Cute baby! (Score:5, Funny)

    by RLiegh (247921) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:06AM (#9517595) Homepage Journal
    Can you get him to give me my car back?
  • Looks like (Score:3, Funny)

    by Timesprout (579035) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:06AM (#9517606)
    The Governator has been playing away from home
  • by Richthofen80 (412488) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:07AM (#9517611) Homepage
    i expect it to be a sitcom-esque situation, where the baby lifts the family car when it gets stuck in the mud.
  • by squarefish (561836) * on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:07AM (#9517617)
    I'm not kidding! [iol.co.za]
    • by greenhide (597777) <jordanslashdot&cvilleweekly,com> on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:15AM (#9517726)
      It is an unfortunate photo (it's a pretty gross photo actually, surprised it was the only one they could get their hands on).

      For those of you who are afraid to follow the link, in the photo the kid has very well defined leg muscles for a 6 day old baby.

      I myself make, uh, plenty of myostatin. In fact, that's my superpower -- making tons of myostatin to keep my body almost superhumanly unmuscled.
      • by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:29AM (#9517929) Homepage Journal
        I myself make, uh, plenty of myostatin. In fact, that's my superpower -- making tons of myostatin to keep my body almost superhumanly unmuscled.

        And I thought I was the only one... ...and that picture is amazing. The child looks like a bodybuilder.

        I've always wondered about that. My sister's kids are built like tanks... incredibly solid bodies, large and very strong. My kids however, are more normal, what you'd typically expect for kids (at least their bodies... they all have "interesting" personalities just like their parents ;-). It was always strange holding a large but lean, muscular two-year-old like that compared to the typical soft, cuddly toddlers (like mine used to be). I wonder if the kids inherited one copy of that gene since they have a former NFL football player for an uncle.

        Her oldest child is now eight. He's a sweet boy, but he's had a fair amount of medical problems. He's the biggest and strongest in his class though, which can be good... or bad, and not suprisingly, he excels at athletics.

        I have a feeling that the interest in this will be huge and some day there might be some skinny, sickly kid named Steve Rogers who gets and injection and goes on to fight America's enemies as some kind of super soldier.

      • by kir (583) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:39AM (#9518053) Homepage

        It is an unfortunate photo (it's a pretty gross photo actually, surprised it was the only one they could get their hands on).

        I'm curious. Why do you think it's a pretty gross photo? It's a baby's butt. That's about as "ungross" as you can get. Well... unless the kid is taking a dump. HE HE HE

        When my daughter was a baby, her butt was the cutest thing... well... until odor starting hitching a ride with the payload. Damn solid foods.

    • by GuyFawkes (729054) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:45AM (#9518117) Homepage Journal
      err, that pic looks like it is of a female......
  • Someone.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by tbaggy (151760) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:08AM (#9517624)
    Someone told me he's weak to kryptonite...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:09AM (#9517636)
    ...as there seems to be little evolutionary pressure to supress myostatin in the normal population.
    • by Mz6 (741941) * on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:11AM (#9517670) Journal
      I was actually wondering the same thing. It's used in cattle and mice now. But what is the downside? Wouldn't everyone want to be big and muscular? This kid can already hold 7 lb weights from his arms, something that adults have a hard time doing. What's the downside to not producing myostatin?
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:14AM (#9517716)
        The downside is that your skeletal structure has to be strong enough to support the extra weight, your circulatory system and lungs need to be able to pump enough blood and supply enough oxygen to all that extra tissue and you need to ingest a hell of a lot more food to provide enough energy to grow and sustain your body mass, which in turn requires your digestive system can process the amount of food you'll need to eat.

        Think of it as being obese, but with muscle instead of fat. Why would that be an advantage?
        • by Anonymous Coward
          ...and you need to ingest a hell of a lot more food to provide enough energy to grow and sustain your body mass...
          That's the real reason. The human body is very energy constrained, mainly because that big brain burns energy at 20% of the basal metabolic rate. Giant muslces would need to provide a major guaranteed increase in food to be favored by evolution.
          • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:55AM (#9518243)
            That's the real reason. The human body is very energy constrained, mainly because that big brain burns energy at 20% of the basal metabolic rate. Giant muslces would need to provide a major guaranteed increase in food to be favored by evolution.

            ...Then this sounds like a perfect adaptation for an environment full of double-meat burgers, super-sized fries and 1/2-gallon sodas. This baby's genes seem to have a very bright future.

      • And there very possibly is, from the article...

        The boy is healthy now, but doctors worry he could eventually suffer heart or other health problems

      • by confused one (671304) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:21AM (#9517815)
        rtfa. They mentioned there's a concern he'll use up all the satellite cells in his muscles (the source of replacement cells when the muscle is damaged). They believe the myostatin works to suppress these cells; and, without it, his muscle repair / replacement mechanism is working overtime. He may end up a man of 30 or 40 with a muscle wasting disorder because he hasn't got the ability to repair damaged cells anymore.

        of course, they don't really know. He may live to be 90, still be able to lift 2-3 times his weight, and show no ill effects.

      • by Timesprout (579035) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:25AM (#9517882)
        Wouldn't everyone want to be big and muscular?

        For myself no. I tone up pretty quickly when I work out but I would not like to get too bulky, it used to be a real pain getting pants to fit my waist and thighs properly when I was bigger.

        That aside there are health and dietary implications. You heart has to work harder to supply blood, particularly under heavy exercise, you lose mobility, and endurance sports become a lot more difficult (not really a bad thing :-) ). I'm sort of half expecting to hear this kid keeled over from heart failure at 35 while putting the garbage out.
        • by DuckDodgers (541817) <keeper_of_the_wo ... m ['yah' in gap]> on Thursday June 24, 2004 @12:04PM (#9519046)
          Actually, you are incorrect about the health implications.

          - Muscle actually helps circulation by pushing veinous blood back towards the heart. The reason big powerlifters and Olympic lifters have problems is all the fat they have in addition to the muscle. Do leg presses and squats with light to medium weight for a few months and then walk up five flights of stairs. You will be considerably less winded than you would have been before you built those leg muscles.

          - Endurance sports that don't involve long term steady activity are actually easier for muscular people. This kid may have as tough a time jogging 10 miles as someone the same weight and much fatter, but in football he'll probably catch his breath much more quickly between plays than anyone less fit.

          - Bodybuilders who haven't ruined their flexibility with constant short range motions, joint damage from improper use of explosive motion exercises, and tendon damage from dangerous anabolic supplements can be extremely flexible. John Grimek, one of the greatest bodybuilders of the 20th century, could stand with his legs straight and rest his forearms on the ground. Casey Viator could touch his elbows together behind his head.
      • by julesh (229690) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:34AM (#9517989)
        According to the Medical College of Georgia, it weakens ligaments [mcg.edu].
      • by nanosmurf (609905) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:43AM (#9518098) Homepage
        The "downside" is linked to a variety of rare neuromuscular disorders, related to (but distinct from) various forms of muscular dystrophy (think Jerry Lewis Telethon). It's not so much what this discovery means for body-builders or people looking to be "extra-strong" but what it means to folks who are born _without_ the ability to produce myostatin. A lack of myostatin would more than likely mean a quick deterioration of the skeletal muscle system, and more importantly, a progressive weakening of the heart muscle and diaphragm, eventually leading to death by complications.
      • This kid can already hold 7 lb weights from his arms, something that adults have a hard time doing.

        Adults would have an easier time of this if their arms were the length of a 4 year old's. I don't mean to belittle his strength, but this is an odd way to measure it since the length of the arm plays as much of a role as the weight involved. I would be more interested in what he can bench press compared to a normal 4 year old.

  • by NaugaHunter (639364) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:09AM (#9517649)
    KHAAAAAN!!!!!
  • dear god (Score:5, Funny)

    by insomnyuk (467714) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:09AM (#9517650) Homepage Journal
    Ok, two things about this story are amazing.

    Firstly, that a 4 year old toddler can hold 3 kilo individual handheld weights, straight out.

    Secondly, that 'many adults' can't hold that much weight. My leatherbound volume of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy has to weigh AT LEAST that much. What the hell is wrong with people?
    • Re:dear god (Score:3, Funny)

      by mikael (484)
      Firstly, that a 4 year old toddler can hold 3 kilo individual handheld weights, straight out.

      He's only 4 years old and can already carry his own laptop.

      I'd hate to be the parent to ask "Where did you hide Daddy's laptop?".

  • Mutants (Score:5, Funny)

    by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:10AM (#9517651) Homepage Journal
    Well, lets just hope Xavier gets to him first.

    -Peter
  • Another Photo (Score:5, Informative)

    by applemasker (694059) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:10AM (#9517654)
    Courtesy of Yahoo here [yahoo.com].
    • Just above that picture there is a 'next' link. DO NOT FOLLOW THAT LINK!

      I told not to follow that link... That blonde does seem to have a certain fascination for that 'artifact'.

  • by Kainaw (676073) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:11AM (#9517666) Homepage Journal
    I think it goes a bit far to claim that this mutation has NEVER been found in humans. Sure, there may not be any popular hospitals with records of this mutation, but I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that this mutation happens about every 5-10 years in small areas all around the world.

    For an example, there was a kid in my teeny little high school who had a muscular growth mutation. His muscles grew so much so fast that he had regular surgery to remove the excess lumps and knots of muscle. He didn't resemble a body builder. He looked like a mutation with lumps all over his body and scars where they had done surgery. I read this article and wondered if he has the same mutation.
  • uberkind (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Guano_Jim (157555) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:11AM (#9517669)
    It's a good thing this kid wasn't born in Germany in the mid-to-late thirties.

    What I want to know is:

    A. How soon will myostatin inhibiting pills become available and:

    B. How soon before jock dads start feeding them to their toddlers.
    • Re:uberkind (Score:3, Informative)

      by julesh (229690)
      (A) they already are. (B) they already are, I guess.

      The problem is that they don't work. It seems that you need to perform gene therapy in order to effectively achieve this kind of result.
  • by MagicM (85041) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:11AM (#9517672)
    If in most humans there is a process that actively limits muscle growth, then there must be a downside to being muscular... I wonder what it is.
    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:22AM (#9517841) Homepage Journal
      Starvation.

      Think about it. In the wild (i.e., in the hunter-gatherer mode of living that represents most of human existence to date) it's obviously useful to be strong -- but you also have to be lean enough to be fast on your feet, and be able to run long distances, and most important, not burn up too many calories just sitting there. Big huge people don't handle "lean times" (and no wild animal is ever too far away from potential starvation) nearly as well as little, wiry ones.

      The pre-industrial agricultural period (roughly speaking, 8000 BC to 1800 AD -- again, a damn big chunk of time) probably exacerbated this with its frequent episodes of famine. These days, we regard it as an aberration when a few million people are starving to death somewhere; for most of recorded history, that has been a fear with which everyone had to live, all the time.

      Dire wolves and sabretooth tigers died out. Grey wolves and mountain lions are still here.
      • by Dread_ed (260158)
        These days, we regard it as an aberration when a few million people are starving to death somewhere; for most of recorded history, that has been a fear with which everyone had to live, all the time

        You are quite correct in this. However what many people fail to see is that the cycles of starvation/famine that the "old world" had are quite similar to our boom and bust cycles of business. There would be good years and bad years and most of it was predicated on weather and later on the planning skills of th
    • by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:51AM (#9518190) Journal
      I know it's a joke, but just for record sake, evolution was not a beauty contest. ("Chicks dig muscular guys! I want to be muscular too!") It was about tuning an animal to be able to at least survive its environment.

      As was already mentioned by several other people, the food intake is one factor. I won't go into that again.

      What I will go into is the situation humans evolved in. Humans didn't evolve as brave muscular cavemen wrestling sabertooth tigers in 1-on-1 combat. Au contraire. It was more like a stealth game, if you will.

      It was a rather small and wimpy fruit eating ape, only suddenly there were less and less trees with fruit. It had to find a new source of food.

      Now contrary to popular belief (e.g., among rabid vegetarian zealots) not all animals can eat grass and leaves. Raw grass and leaves contain an enzyme that prevents you from extracting the protein in it. Unless you have the _very_ specialized digestive system of a herbivore, _or_ can boil those plants (high temperature destroys that enzyme), you can't survive on leaves. That ape didn't fit either category. (We're still millions of years before taming the fire.)

      There is, howver, one thing that any animal can digest, and provides all the aminoacids needed: meat. Yes. Sorry, vegans. The human species evolved on _meat_.

      There was another problem, however: that ape couldn't hunt. It didn't have the speed to catch an antelope, nor the claws or teeth to kill it with.

      It had to survive by basically stealing food killed by the carnivores. The problem not ending up as second course for those carnivores.

      It was a game of stealth, speed and cunning, not one of brutal hand-to-hand combat. Evolving into something more muscular and slower was _not_ an option. A small ape twice as muscular still can't kill a tiger with its bare hands.

      The correct evolutionary path was to become more agile and, most importantly, _smarter_. Being able to improvise a plan raised your survival chances a lot more. And conversely, having a supply of meat allowed you to have a bigger brain. This cycle is what put us on the evolutionary course to what we are today.

      I.e., in a way, yes, the correct evolutionary course was to become a scrawny smart geek. That was the survival trait.

      And you can see it in how the species evolved. In the original ape, the male was about twice as big as the female, much more muscular and had bigger teeth and jaws. It was originally supposed to be, yes, the muscular jock that can defend his woman.

      What the species evolved into, was something where the two genders are a lot more comparably sized. Most of the muscle advantage disappeared, and the big jaws were lost too.

      It's easy to extrapolate that the brave and muscular jocks were the first to get out of the gene pool. That was not a survival trait.
      • by hoggoth (414195) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @11:35AM (#9518739) Journal
        > evolution was not a beauty contest. ("Chicks dig muscular guys! I want to be muscular too!") It was about tuning an animal to be able to at least survive its environment

        Hence the dazzling fan of the peacock, which the peacock uses to beat it's prey to death in a frightening, yet fashionable, display of evolutionary fitness.

        There are many examples of evolution in weird directions for better sexual selection. For example song birds, fireflies, and Bill Clinton's exaggerated male chin.
    • Bigger brains -- possibly higher intelligence, definitely higher risk in the birth canal.

      Faster rabbit -- sometimes runs out and gets nabbed by a hawk when the more cautious ones are holding back.

      Higher metabolism and endothermism -- requires more energy to keep going. (Similar cost for huge muscles.)

      There's a popular idea that things are getting "better" through natural selection and evolution. The things is, our ideas of what "better" would be are usually kind of silly and superficial. "Better adapt

  • Myostatin in cattle (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lust (14189) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:11AM (#9517678) Homepage
    Muscle doubling in cattle with the same gene was publishedin 1997, with extraordinary photos of a Belgian Blue bull: HERE [nih.gov]
  • It's known already (Score:5, Informative)

    by luugi (150586) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:11AM (#9517679)
    Products that claim to regulate myostatin are already used by many athletes and bodybuilders.These guys are always ahead of the game.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:12AM (#9517681)
    The cover story in the July Scientific American [sciam.com] is about genetic enhancements of muscle. (They havent put the article online free yet.) The thrust is finding an inhibitor for the muscle-growth inhibitor called myostatin. In the article is a picture of a bovine lacking the myostatin gene. It is so bulked up, that it looks like a cylinder of meat with a nose and four hooves sticking out.
  • by SilentChris (452960) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:12AM (#9517688) Homepage
    I like the fact that they're already touting this as an advance for athletics. That is, until people find out that (for example) it increases ALL muscles, including the heart, which'll then overgrow and collapses at the age of 35. There's a reason why mutations don't happen all the time.
    • Or perhaps the muscle will become so developed that it will bring flexibility down to zero essentially rendering the individual athletically useless.
    • My understanding is that short of genetic engineering, there is no way to take advantage of this for athletics.

      Of course, that hasn't stopped numerous companies selling "myostatin inhibitors", but from what I've read, none of them actually work.
    • I can see the future:

      Ladies and Gentlmen welcome to Bagdad Olympics 2044 were all sorts of mutants will compete for the gold medal.

      For the 300m sprint we have Rabbit-Man with a third leg from LegBotics(TM) with the capability to run(TM) and jump(PATENT PENDING) as high as 4m.

      Next to him we have MuscleMan(TM) with genetically engineered MuscleSoft(TM) muscles that can boost performance to all time records.

      We hope(TM) you enjoy(TM) the games! Here are a few messages for you...
    • The gene therapy version of this talked about in Scientific American says it can be targetted to specific muscles. They were able to use this on mice to enhance one leg by 25% while the other leg's muscles developed normally.

      The increase in muscle came with no additional work, the mice were essential sedentary, but still gained 15-25% muscle mass.
      • Selective use (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gr8_phk (621180)
        If it can be selective, then perhaps it could be used to bulk up a damaged heart. For example after a heart attack.

        In general, I'm with the parent poster on this one - more is not always better, and there is likely a down side to this. However, as humans really can't say one way or the other. Perhaps you need this mutation AND another one, two, or 12 to really be "better". Even a "bad" mutation may be good when taken with another set of modifications we don't know about. Embrace genetic diversity.

    • There's a reason why mutations don't happen all the time.

      They happen 'all the time' -- often enough -- but they mostly just don't result in an advantage that'll make you more successful, natural selection wise.

      You'd have to think, though, that dying at 35 might not stop some people. Tonight's the NBA draft. There's a 7 foot-5 inch European center who'll get taken mid-lottery or so. The kid has a growth hormone problem, diagnosed, that he's being treated for; teams regard it as an advantage, pretty clear

  • by FrostedWheat (172733) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:12AM (#9517691)
    Does he turn green when he's having a tantrum?
  • by bl8n8r (649187) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:14AM (#9517714)
    I am adding this to my spam filter now.
  • by cOdEgUru (181536) <cherian...abraham@@@gmail...com> on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:16AM (#9517744) Homepage Journal
    From the article

    There was no information on the baby's father

    Second Coming of Christ! This time, he's kicking your ass!!
  • by astanley218 (302943) <adam.nethosters@com> on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:18AM (#9517781) Homepage
    A few years ago I managed a retail health/nutrition shop. Shortly before I left there was lots of commotion over new research involving certain myostatin inhibitors. Once such product was made from a special marine algae. You can read a review about it here [bodybuildingforyou.com].

    Unfortunately, I left the position before I had a chance to discuss with any first-hand users of these things, but it looks like they're still being sold at various web sites, so somebody must think they're working.
  • Muscular Dystrophy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Paulrothrock (685079) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:31AM (#9517952) Homepage Journal
    My fiance's little brother has MD, a disease where the muscles degrade over time. Eventually, his heart or diaphram will be affected and he will die. Would a myostatin treatment help him by increasing muscle production? I'm not that familiar with his condition, so maybe some doctors or future doctors could help.
  • by orthogonal (588627) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:35AM (#9517998) Journal
    German supermen, nothing scary about that, eh, untermenschen?

    From this MSNBC article [msn.com]:
    Researchers would not disclose the German boys identity but said he was
    born to a somewhat muscular mother, a 24-year-old former professional sprinter. Her brother and three other close male relatives all were unusually strong [implying they also have one mutated copy of the gene], with one of them a construction worker able to unload heavy curbstones by hand.

    In the mother, one copy of the gene is mutated and the other is normal; the boy has two mutated copies. One almost definitely came from his father, but no information about him has been disclosed. The mutation is very rare in people.


    The boy has two copies. He could (absent an extremely unlikely second identical mutation on the other copy of the same gene) only get one from his mother. The other had to come from his father. The mutation is very rare. The mother has four male relatives with one copy of the mutation. The identity of the father has not been disclosed.

    Anyone care to connect the dots?

    I'm not pointing this out to be cruel or catty; I'm pointing it put because it's a good example of what's called the "founder's effect" [wikipedia.org], a mechanism by which mutations -- by definition unique or nearly unique events -- became part of a general population.

    Since this child has two copies of the mutation, not only are phenotypic effects greater -- he's even more muscular than his mother who has a single copy -- but all of his children will have at least a single copy, like his mother.

    Were the conditions for founder's effect stronger -- that is, if he were a member of a smaller and more isolated population than modern Germany -- one can easily see how inbreeding could result in the mutation becoming common throughout that population.

    When two persons with a single copy of the mutation breed, one-quarter of their offspring (on average) will have, like the child being studied, two copies of the mutated form (or allele) of the gene (and no copies of the gene's normal allele), one-quarter will have two copies of the normal allele, and one-half of the offspring will have, like the mother, one mutated allele and one "normal" allele.

    But when a person with two copies breeds with a person with a single copy, one-half the offspring (on average) will have two copies of the mutation, and one-half will have one copy of it.

    So if there's any preferential benefit to having the mutation -- if those with the mutation do better and so have more offspring -- and if there's the in-breeding of founder's effect, the mutation should become common in the founder population.

    Indeed, it's likely that founder's effect, along with environmental conditions, explains why Germans and other Europeans, despite being descended from Africans 40,000 years ago, are white rather than black: being white is bad under the Africa sun, as, unprotected, it will lead to skin cancer and death by about age twelve. But being black in the weaker sunlight of Europe prevents the metabolization of vitamin D, leading to the weakened bones of rickets. In Africa, mutations that lead to less melanin production and whiteness also lead to death -- but in Europe it allowed a longer, better life.

    But how did lessened melanin production and "whiteness" spread in Europe? Likely through founder's effect in small and isolated inbreeding populations -- but certainly not because of any "Aryan" superiority.
  • Look out! (Score:4, Funny)

    by thpdg (519053) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:37AM (#9518034) Journal
    This kid was designed to beat up Slashdotters, in high school.
  • by mz2 (770412) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:40AM (#9518074)

    There's normally a reason for having a tight regulation of muscle growth in animals, as there's a reason for regulating cell divisions and changes that lead to growth and proliferation overall in all sorts of multicellular organisms (otherwise you'd be just a big blob of tumour).

    So, taking out that regulatory protein myostatin will not perhaps be the healthies thing to do if you want to increase muscle size, as you'll just probably end up getting a heart-attack and all sorts of other nasty muscular problems with the most essential muscle tissues you have (heart and intestine at least). This sort of issues occur in GM-modified cattle with the similar myostatin mutation very regularly, and human as another not-too-distant mammal will probably not be any more safe from these problems.

  • muscular dystrophy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by knightrdr (685033) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:42AM (#9518084) Homepage
    As someone who has muscular dystrophy and has a mother who is severely disabled by the same disease, this makes me very hopeful. Although the article specifically warns that they don't know what the long term effects of this disease are I think you would find that most people suffering from muscular dystrophy would gladly take 30 years of a somewhat "normal" life compared to being doomed to watch my body waste away for lack of a viable treatment. That said, I'm still very skeptical of this discovery. There are over 40 types of muscular dystrophy, not to be confused with multiple schlerosis, which may be affected to varying degrees by myostatin. One thing that the article didn't mention was that even with myostatin it's not possible to regrow muscle with our current technology. So what is already lost may be permanently lost, yet even a 25% improvement or even arrested development of the disease would be welcomed by many of us in the MD community.
  • Myostatin blockers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by julesh (229690) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:43AM (#9518101)
    For anyone who's wondering about the uses of treatments for blocking myostatin, here is an article you might want to read.

    Myostatin and Myostatin Inhibitors: The Next Big Supplement Scam [ast-ss.com]
  • by Gadzinka (256729) <rrw@hell.pl> on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:48AM (#9518155) Journal
    I don't know if this is the first human w/o muscle-inhibiting protein.

    I once saw a program on Discovery about the guy whos muscles grew indefinitelly, even w/o any physical activity. He had to have them removed surgically from time to time.

    I'm not sure if that was the same condition, but I don't think I'd like to have it.

    Robert
  • Evolution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by arvindn (542080) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:49AM (#9518165) Homepage Journal
    If being a 'superhuman' were to confer a survival advantage, then natural selection would have ensured that the mutated gene would have become the standard. Given the obvious advantages of huge muscles, what are the downsides that apparently more than negate it? I read the article and couldn't find a definitive answer. There's one interesting bit:

    A recent paper indicated that myostatin might normally function to keep satellite cells quiescent. Without myostatin, he said, the satellite cells might be so active building muscle that they become depleted early in life. ... will his satellite cells be used up so that his muscles start to deflate when he is 30 or so?

    I'm wondering if that could be it. But then getting weak after age 30 doesn't sound like a big deal to me because humans' reproductive peak occurs well below that age. Any bio people have a clue about any other possibilities?

  • by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @10:57AM (#9518275) Journal
    I see a strange, fragile comic book dealer in this kid's future.
  • by thisissilly (676875) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @11:10AM (#9518431)
    He's not taking any performance-enhancing substances. If he goes into weightlifting, and gets good at it, can he go to the Olympics?
  • Spooky thought... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dr. Smeegee (41653) * on Thursday June 24, 2004 @11:11AM (#9518450) Homepage Journal
    From Associated Press Article
    Researchers would not disclose the German boy's identity but said he was born to a somewhat muscular mother, a 24-year-old former professional sprinter. Her brother and three other close male relatives all were unusually strong, with one of them a construction worker able to unload heavy curbstones by hand.
    In the mother, one copy of the gene is mutated and the other is normal; the boy has two mutated copies. One almost definitely came from his father, but no information about him has been disclosed. The mutation is very rare in people.

    I hate to sound the banjo alarm, but I suspect the easiest way for these genes to double up in the bairn would be in a case of incest.

    Eep. Wonder if they are recessive?
  • Picture at Tribune (Score:3, Informative)

    by nightsweat (604367) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @11:15AM (#9518497)
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/health/chi- 040624baby-photo,1,7431047.photo [chicagotribune.com] has a photo of the kid's legs. You might have to register. Hulk smash.
  • Picture (Score:3, Informative)

    by skjernaa (224206) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @11:17AM (#9518535) Homepage
    A picture from a Danish newspaper. He is 7 months old at this picture [www.jp.dk].
  • by DCheesi (150068) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @11:24AM (#9518599) Homepage
    After googling for myostatin, it looks like there have been other cases of this. It sounds like different specific mutations of this gene produce varying levels of inhibition; this kid is just an extreme case.

    Also, although the scientists are moving cautiously on this, the bodybuilding-supplement industry has already jumped on the bandwagon (as usual). There's already a "natural" product (their quotes) on the market that claims to block myostatin. As always, I take their claims with several pounds of salt :)

    Obviously I'll wait for the real scientists' findings, but a drug for this could be a real lifesaver for the modern geek^H^H^H^H white collar worker. Basically it causes your body to spend all its extra resources building & fueling muscle, instead of growing fat cells and dealing with hyperglycemia. We'd all be in great shape; that is, until the inevitable post-apocalyptic famine hit ;)

  • by Zapdos (70654) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @11:27AM (#9518645)
    Let's all hope the doctors and scientists have good luck. They are trying to figure out how to save this child's life. If left the way he is, his heart will become too thick to stay functional.
    This condition has been documented in animals, which have all died at a fairly young age.

    This is just this child's misfortune to be the first documented human case.

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @11:34AM (#9518711) Homepage Journal
    When asked why he was destroying the town, the boy replied "Stan bad! Bechomp bechomp, bechewie chomp, bechewie chomp."
  • las drugas (Score:4, Interesting)

    by austad (22163) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @11:34AM (#9518716) Homepage
    If drugs come out to block this protein, of course it's going to be abused by people.

    I forget what it's called now, but there is a condition where your heart can grow too big inside your chest, and your ribcage and organs press on it and cause all sorts of problems. People who take steroids are susceptible to this condition.

    I'm fairly active, and I used to take creatine before workouts. I started having chest pain and went to the doctor, and he was telling me that could be the problem, especially since I was using creatine. An X-ray showed I was fine, but it does happen to people, and I would think the abscence of this protein would surely make one more likely to have the problem.
  • Poor Kid (Score:5, Insightful)

    He grows up to have damaged skelatal structure, heart problems and will probobly die before he's forty and all the while biotech companies have patented his DNA, reaped massive benifit and he hasen't seen a cent, let alone a euro.

    You doubt me. Call me back in 2050 and we'll see.
  • by dindi (78034) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @12:33PM (#9519420) Homepage
    I am actually experimenting now on myself with a myostatin blocker. It is commercially available from
    Cytodyne Technologies (same company who sells Xenadrine an Ephedra based (lately in the US ephedra free fat burner))

    Anyway, the product is called Myo-Blast CSP^3.
    Anyone interested might consider Juiced Protein from Pinnacle (pretty OK taste compared to other protein shakes)

    Why ? Why not. I am not a Gym freak, but I do st 45-60 minutes weight training +
    40-60 minutes cardio /day (good to rent an office with Gym use included ;) )

    While I am against steroids I happily take an algae based product or bioengineered protein
    as a little experiment - at the end probably they makes less harm than a bigmac :>

    ahm + I am a vegetarian who does lotsa sports so extra protein is welcome ....

    for those who might wonder: myostatin is responsible for skeletal muscle! Your tongue, and your heart muscle won't grow bigger than it is if you block that enzyme (I hope it really)

    I recommed these searches "myostatin cow" : http://images.google.com/images?q=myostatin%20cow& hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wi
    myostatin:
    http:/ /images.google.com/images?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8 &q=myostatin+&btnG=Search

    cheers :)
  • What a coincidence (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nynaeve (163450) on Thursday June 24, 2004 @01:27PM (#9520065)
    Seven years ago, they create myostatin-free mice. Three years later, a child is born with the same "mutation". Also, there is no record of the father to verify parentage or that he contributed the other gene.

    If I were a researcher who had solved the various difficulties (heart problems, etc.) with the process, and I wanted a secret human trial, I'd find a mother which already had one gene as a cover and make sure there was no information available on the father to give away the fact he did not contain the other gene, or falsify it if there were. Then, I'd act real surprised when the baby was born.

    It could be legit, but the rarity of the mutation makes the whole thing sound suspicious to me ...
  • baby talk (Score:4, Funny)

    by Fished (574624) <amphigory&gmail,com> on Thursday June 24, 2004 @01:33PM (#9520157)
    Quote from the article: "Ooo goo gaga, bebebebe be boo boo."

    Translation: "Hi. I'm Hans, and I am here to 'Pump you Up!'"

Money will say more in one moment than the most eloquent lover can in years.

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