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Biotech Medicine Science

Super Strength Substance Approaching Human Trials 425

kkleiner writes "You may remember Liam Hoekstra, the baby apparently born without the myostatin gene, and consequently sporting 40% more skeletal muscle than his peers. Using gene therapy, NCH scientists have been able to get follistatin (a myostatin blocker) to promote phenomenal muscle growth in macaque monkeys. NCH is now working with the FDA to perform the preliminary steps necessary for a human clinical trial. Is this the prelude to a super-strength gene therapy for all of us?"
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Super Strength Substance Approaching Human Trials

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  • by cl0ckt0wer ( 973067 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:13PM (#30372442)
    It could cure obesity: more muscles increases your resting metabolic rate. Just increase muscle mass to the point where your digestive tract is overwhelmed, and you start burning fat, no matter what you eat. Kind of like the movie "thinner", but this one would be called "muscular". That brings up interesting questions about what happens when your musculo-skeletal system and your nervous system start fighting for calories. The stereotypical big dumb guy? And isn't this gene therapy, where one shot changes your DNA for life? Culturally, this will hit the fitness industry like a bombshell. Billions are spent annually on looking "ripped". Here's the real deal. Pretty soon, you won't get laid without it.
  • consequences (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fred fleenblat ( 463628 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:23PM (#30372560) Homepage

    Seems like there is probably a reason we have myostatin and if you disable it, other health problems may result. We're just don't know what they are yet.

    Further, it seems like the people most interested in taking this drug would be bodybuilders who already have a low body fat percentage...they have little fat to burn and now this reduces the ability to metabolize their muscle tissue. I could foresee that a small medical problem involving the digestive tract could turn into a complete crisis if they cannot get the energy they need to fight an infection from their own tissues when they need it most.

  • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:28PM (#30372608)

    And astronauts: the muscular atrophy they experience at zero gee is quite profound, and is a real risk to extended space station or possible Mars missions.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:37PM (#30372674)

    There's a major application for this research in space travel. One of the major issues with long duration space missions is muscle atrophy. This could provide assistance in maintaining muscle mass on trips to and from Mars, as well as long duration Moon missions. Not to mention the potential eventual colonization of said worlds.

  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:42PM (#30372714)
    I'm sure you're right, but I'll bet the main commercial application will be found in super-meaty chickens and cows.
  • Re:Super Soldiers? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by isa-kuruption ( 317695 ) <> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:46PM (#30372744) Homepage

    The military has been working on what I'd call troop supplement vehicles. Basically, they are small cart vehicles able to carry a couple thousand pounds. They can follow a soldier around, or manually controlled to perform delivery tasks during a fire fight. Beats a 40% increase in strength by far.

  • by bmxeroh ( 1694004 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:58PM (#30372828) Homepage
    You joke, but your image of abuse is probably very real, depending on the availability. I mean, your always going to have people that will abuse it no matter what, but imagine if you would if this falls in line with other optional surgeries and procedures. Not happy with how you look? How about some gene therapy to fix your body image? Do we really need angry people suddenly developing 40% more muscle mass? People are assholes enough, but now there's no question they can beat the crap out of me if they get angry. On the flip side, this sounds like it could work miracles for some with real problems.
  • Re:consequences (Score:4, Interesting)

    by arb phd slp ( 1144717 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:02PM (#30372858) Homepage Journal

    I think I read something (in the same article as I read about the endurance hunting you reference) that humans already deal with sleep deprivation better than most of the animal kingdom. It's one of the reasons that endurance hunting works for us but other predators can't do it.
    I don't think knowledge workers like slashdotters would want to go without sleep long-term. Sleep is when learning happens (moving memory traces from short-term into long-term memory). Even if you could, why would you want to kick your cognition in the teeth like that?

  • Re:Super Soldiers? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:03PM (#30372866)

    The human brain operates on around a 22.5 hour cycle. Sleep, the sun, diet, and routine are enough to compensate for the 1.5 hour difference between our wired cycle and the Earth''s rotational cycle.

    The Navy operates submarines (shift-wise) on a 16-hour cycle. And without the sun, that shit gets fucked up enough as it is.

    The solution? Nothing - power through, boys!

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:29PM (#30373062)
    For endurance sports, I suspect your performance is limited by your bodies ability to remove lactic acid from your system, in which case having 40% more muscle mass wouldn't help -- there would be 40% more lactic acid. For pure strength sports such as weightlifting this would be an advantage -- up until your muscles become strong enough to break your own bones or tear your own tendons. For body builders, using this would be a no-brainer. I've always advocated that, like snowmobile racing, all sports should have "unmodified" classes where enhancements are banned and "supermodified" classes where anything goes. Get caught doping, you (and your records) just get automatically moved into the supermod class.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:31PM (#30373070)

    It would also be much harder to test for than steroid abuse;

    This substance inhibits production of a regulatory protien; simply stopping use would return miostatin levels to normal, while retaining the bulked up mass. (It takes time for muscles to atrophy.)

    A person could theoretically "Bulk up" with a traditional muscle building regimen coupled with short term use of this product, and have 40% more effect, discontinue use, and pass blood screenings with flying colors.

    If I was the olympic judiciary panel, I would be very worried by this turn of events.

  • by mister_playboy ( 1474163 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:34PM (#30373092)

    Come to think of it, the elderly also have weakened joints and tendons, and that might be an even bigger problem. You would need extra strength in the bone-bone and bone-muscle connections to handle the extra muscle.

  • by Eli Gottlieb ( 917758 ) <`eligottlieb' `at' `'> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:43PM (#30373158) Homepage Journal

    Are you entirely sure about that? I've been home a couple of weeks from a trip to a country with a much healthier diet than that of the USA, and I've been craving their food (mostly vegetables, beans, and wholeish grains) ever since I got back.

  • by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:54PM (#30373236) Homepage
    Only poor people would be weak any more... especially considering that 20 micrograms cost $200 or so: []
  • by BKX ( 5066 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @10:11PM (#30373362) Journal

    beans, grains = sugar/starch

    The reason you crave those foods over our refined foods is that your body detected that that form of sugar/starch also contained more vitamins and was tastier.

  • Re:Super Soldiers? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mattack2 ( 1165421 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @10:15PM (#30373392)

    The human brain operates on around a 22.5 hour cycle.

    Can you provide a reference for that? I was under the impression we had around a 25 hour cycle, and my single data point agreed.

  • Re:Super Soldiers? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @10:19PM (#30373416) Homepage Journal
    Open question: What about the ethical concerns with military and law enforcement use of the drug, especially if the use is encouraged or even mandated?

    Law enforcement already have a problem with 'roids. Even if the new drug doesn't directly affect moods, it could cause harmful or fatal overestimation of strength and ability.
  • why evil? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by nten ( 709128 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @10:22PM (#30373444)

    Why will the artificially created person end up evil, while the naturally born child be ok? That is the cliche of course, because nature knows best right? I find the neoluddite underpinnings of the cliche to be disgusting. Its far more likely that a normal mature adult given superstrength would behave rationally, than a child who grew up stronger than everyone around them. The latter seems like a recipe for all sorts of neurosis.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @10:22PM (#30373452) Homepage

    One of the details I recall from the story and discussion about super-baby was that if there was a way to make this happen in normal people, that it would be a bad idea because there is a limit to the amount of muscular growth possible and would result in a premature exhaustion of that potential. And I don't recall what the consensus actually was on the effects it could have on bone development and maintenance, but I can't imagine it would be good either.

    The body is the way it is for good reasons. You can thank "god" for it or you can thank evolutionary forces. Whatever the case, I can't imagine that this is a favorable mutation to induce.

    On the other hand, if it helps muscular dystrophy kids, I'm completely for it being tested on humans.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @10:37PM (#30373528)

    If there's no side effects (besides a massive case of the munchies), I'm a soldier, and it's an unfair advantage over my opponents, where do I fucking sign? Hell even if I'm not a soldier. If I'm ME (I train in kung fu) and I plateau on strength but I want to make sure to have an edge over guys taller than me in a fight, it's still not a bad idea if there's no massive side effects.

    Basically, if you're competing in the dog eat dog nature sense instead of the "Let's all be fair" human sense, and this has no bad side effects, it's a no brainer. Particularly if the effects are reversible if food supplies become scarce later.

  • by jipn4 ( 1367823 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @10:40PM (#30373538)

    Big muscles used to be considered undesirable, since they were an indication of low social status. If it gets cheap and commonplace to get big muscles, they'll go out of fashion again. Their value as a signal is that they require dedication, time, and resources.

  • Re:consequences (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AnotherUsername ( 966110 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @10:49PM (#30373588)
    Well, I am not a biologist, but I would imagine that, with vastly increased metabolism, comes shorter lifespans, simply because everything in the body happens a bit quicker(or a lot quicker). If your body does all of its tasks in a quicker fashion, cell mitosis and cell death will also happen quicker. Granted, it may not be a lot, but I would definately watch to see how long this kid lives, and how fast he goes through the various phases of life. Hopefully he doesn't turn into a Jack [].

    I may be completely wrong, but I would definitely want to see the long term effects of something like this before I start injecting myself with water from the wrong cup []
  • by ppanon ( 16583 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @10:56PM (#30373636) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, the problem is that now you would need to bring home two tonnes of groceries.
  • Re:consequences (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ozlanthos ( 1172125 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @11:12PM (#30373720)
    I can also foresee mental issues arising for body-builders taking this substance. As they have lower fat percentages (as low as 3% in some cases) their brains would most likely starve in some way if muscle could no longer be converted to fat.

  • by Jarik C-Bol ( 894741 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @11:44PM (#30373884)
    heck, from the description of the kid, it could help obesity, metabolism like a hummingbird. all they gotta do is find a way to turn it on and off, and bam, 1 shot and you lose weight and get ripped, a second shot and you're normal again. (don't rain on my crazy parade! a man can dream!)
  • by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:21AM (#30374314)

    Fat people mostly have quite a bit of muscle in the legs and lower torso, because they have been building it moving their mass around, even if they are not very active. They don't tend towards muscle in the upper torso and arms. Going on a diet to lose weight usually results in loss of both fat and muscle mass. I've seem a few cases where a fat person managed to lose weight mostly by exercise, and it can be remarkable - i.e. a sedentary 260 lb. middle aged woman who could do 320 on the leg press machine from her first day at the gym. She didn't have a lot of endurance, dexterity, or upper body strength when she started, but legs? Yeah, she had those, and after eight months, she was down to 180, and could leg press over twice her weight, and kick higher than her head. I hope she's kept up with it since I saw her last, but even in the still chunky range, I'd estimate she was seriously lethal with those kicks if she ever needed to be.

  • by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:33AM (#30374376)

    Ligaments will usually thicken up if you use the muscles, but there's a lag of about 4 to 9 months. The point where a ligament attaches to bone actually has to gain cross sectional area more than the rest of the ligament does. That will grow in most young adults, and probably grow somewhat even in older persons with the right exercise. Jack Lalanne claimed ligament growth eventually caught up even for people who started serious exercise in their 70's. So, my guess would be that this treatment could put people in a temporarily vulnerable zone, but with good sports medicine, that risk would be reasonable and eventually pass. Incidentally, there's some evidence even bone will thicken to match after about 2 to 3 years with the same exercise load. That's been reported by some bodybuilders including Frank Zane and Aaahnold, but is still controversial.

  • by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @03:53AM (#30374958)

    So your argument boils down to "I worked hard and now there's an easy solution, it should be banned to make me feel superior."? I guess your really hate that using a computer no longer requires programming knowledge as well?

    Also, what about the kid who grew up with parents who fed him/her shitty fast food every day and by the time he/she was old enough to realize it was the crappy diet turning him/her into a fatty he/she was already at that point where exercise was a lot harder than it would've been for someone who grew up in a family where mommy and daddy made sure they ate only healthy food, where monday, wednesday, friday and weekends were "hockey practice days" or "soccer practice days", where daddy would stand by the side of the rink screaming at them to perform better? How is the latter not an "unfair" advantage compared in regard to physical fitness?


  • by LtGordon ( 1421725 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:19AM (#30375956)
    A better question would be: what about your tendons and all the other moving parts? Having super strong muscles doesn't do you a whole lot of good if your tendons can't support the extra load. Imagine shoving a heavy-duty diesel engine into a Honda Civic. The extra power is only useful until it starts to rip apart the chassis.

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.