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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 eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @07:56PM (#30372270) Journal

    Is this the prelude to a super-strength gene therapy for all of us?

    No, the clinical trials will begin but one of the test subjects will realize that they are now stronger than his fellow man and the only thing keeping him a cut above the rest is the drug. So he (or she, both sexes are equally evil) will taint the other subjects' follistatin with cyanide, killing them all. Then the super villain transformation into The Sinister Strength will be complete and they will emerge from the carnage at the clinic to hoard all the remaining follistatin. We have only one hope, that our hero Liam Hoekstra arrives on the scene early enough to put an end to The Sinister Strength ... refresh Slashdot next week to find out.

  • And what would we do with this super strength? Personally, the heaviest thing I ever need to lift is the occasional DB server.

    • What, you don't think it would be handy to be able to move a car without starting it?

    • by hort_wort ( 1401963 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:07PM (#30372372)

      This is my reaction too. Also, what is the cost of having to maintain all these muscles? Do you have to eat more than the normal person? Do you lose all your fine motor control?

      The human is the best animal in the brain department. Why don't they try to improve what we're good at? Why compete with the Gorilla?

      • by Conspiracy_Of_Doves ( 236787 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:13PM (#30372444)

        We would need to eat a lot more than the normal human needs to.

        The diet of the average American should just about cover it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          That's true but unfortunately you would probably have to eat a lot more protein. The diet of the average American is heavily weighted towards sugars, fats and starches since that's what our overdeveloped brains tell us we need. So we have naturally used those brains to develop mechanized agriculture that can produce those foods most efficiently. This has basically turned us into highly-intelligent blobs.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            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.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by BKX ( 5066 )

              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: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by LtGordon ( 1421725 )
            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.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          Funny? Yes, but it's actually insightful / informative. God, I think this post just made us aware that we need to improve the mod system to more accurately reflect a post's content......
      • by digitalunity ( 19107 ) <{digitalunity} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:17PM (#30372498) Homepage

        Muscle burns more energy than fat, both at rest and during physical activity.

        An effective oral myostatic blocker would enable a lot of people to reduce their body fat levels with minimal lifestyle change.

        For those who are severely obese, this would be a godsend since for many of them they weigh so much and have such small muscle mass that physical activity can be dangerous.

        • by geekoid ( 135745 )

          It would also be a god send to us 40 something with a pot belly thatw ant to look like they did in high school without the pesky being active all the time part.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Missing_dc ( 1074809 )

          And if this promotes muscle growth where it is used most, most of us Slashdotters will end up with just one Superhuman Arm.

          "Hello, I am the Mega-Baiter!!"

          Disclaimer: I am married, so my arms would remain the same, but my wife would (through associated absorption) develop some massive jaw and tongue muscles......

          I love her....

      • by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:17PM (#30372502)

        The human is the best animal in the brain department

        Which we are using to (attempt to) become better than everything at everything.

    • And what would we do with this super strength? Chicks dig muscles.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )

      first off, you would have 40% more muscle with no effort. The ladies will be a callin'

      Second off, you cold intimidate someone else to lift the DB server

    • 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.
      • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:18PM (#30372514)
        Pretty soon, you won't get laid without it. I think I speak for many slashdotters when I ask, "how is that any different from my current situation?"
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jipn4 ( 1367823 )

        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.

        • by sexybomber ( 740588 ) <boccilino&gmail,com> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @10:57PM (#30373640)
          Bingo, this exactly. If this drug hit the mainstream, we'd end up with a couple billion ripped, status-obsessed douchebags. Some would begin spiking their hair and frosting the tips. It'd be like Jersey guidos, but worldwide. (In other words, it would be Hell on Earth.)

          End result: Women stop liking big muscles. Slashdotters become the most desirable men on the planet. Cowboy Neal ends up on the cover of "Playgirl". Geeks begin outbreeding other social groups. They ultimately inherit the Earth.

          I, for one, welcome the very brief reign of our muscly overlords.
    • If I had to choose one spot to have this therapy applied, it would be my lower back. Having pulled it every other month is getting annoying.

    • by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:19PM (#30372516) Journal

      I would imagine that this would be incredibly useful to those with muscle wasting diseases.

      • 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.

    • And what would we do with this super strength?

      The same thing we do every night Pinky; try to take over the World!

    • I'm not sure it would help me at all. A 40% increase of 0 is still 0.
  • Well damn, now no one will buy my super mutants if they can be one :(. >MadDoc
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:05PM (#30372348)

    My dwarves are going to be 100% more terrified when the monkeys have super strength!

  • At least she won't smell musky and have a 'stache.....

  • No (Score:5, Funny)

    by Conspiracy_Of_Doves ( 236787 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:11PM (#30372416)

    No, not all of us.

    Just soldiers and government agents.

  • by sparkeyjames ( 264526 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:12PM (#30372426)

    If you thought the German swimmers looked like men during the 80's and 90's just wait till this kicks for human use.


  • One of the problems with wanting to lose weight is by the time you become a large tub, you no longer have enough muscle to move around and exercise. Now you can take this drug, have enough power to start working out and not feel like you are dying when you are starting out, which may increase the positive feedback effect.

  • by netsavior ( 627338 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:13PM (#30372452)
    so is this the new diet drug? Americans already take in too many calories, it would be very trans-human and very cool if we just altered our muscle mass instead of shrinking our calorie intake.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      That would be awesome.

      Also, getting modded so you absorb a small % of fat.
      SO many great ways we could modify our bodies. If only I can be modded to generate electricity for my mobile devices*.

      Please spare me the obvious matrix reference.

    • by chainsaw1 ( 89967 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:06AM (#30376178)

      The article also stated that Liam had to have a lot of protien, which makes sense if you are building excess muscle mass. Unfortunately your dream of converting Big Macs to bulging biceps is only 1/2 complete unless you can get extra beef rather than special sauce as part of your calorie intake. Empty calories alone probably aren't going to work.

      Now then, your Whopper with a Protein Shake rather than that chocolate shake may do the trick.
      Beefcake. BeefCake! BEEEEEEF CAKE!

  • by Jack9 ( 11421 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:14PM (#30372456)

    We have a world food distribution/shortage problem as it is. Imagine SUPER STRONG STARVING Humans.

    http://www.ashtreehill.com/the-hungry.html [ashtreehill.com]

    • The food supplies of those who are likely to consume this drug aren't really strongly related to those of the world's starving, for better or worse. At least not at the moment.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Locke2005 ( 849178 )
      And you thought you had problems with bullies stealing your lunch money before!
  • Darn (Score:4, Funny)

    by spyder-implee ( 864295 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:18PM (#30372510)
    For some reason I was really hoping to see some pictures of buff Monkeys.
  • 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.

    • Re:consequences (Score:5, Insightful)

      by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:45PM (#30372732) Homepage

      > Seems like there is probably a reason we have myostatin and if you disable
      > it, other health problems may result.

      You'll need to eat more.

      And no, that isn't a joke. There is strong evolutionary pressure for nutritional efficiency. Carrying around muscles you don't need uses up calories you could have used to live through the drought. Not a problem now for most humans, but it really mattered for all animals until fairly recently.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      Seems like there is probably a reason we have myostatin and if you disable it

      There is a theory that early human hunters would spear a big, strong, fast furry critter and then just keep following the thing at a steady pace until it collapsed from exhaustion. We seem to be built for the long run instead of the short sprint.
      Personally I'm looking for the genetic modification that lets me get by on about an hour of sleep a night.

      • 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: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 [wikipedia.org].

      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 [youtube.com]
  • Super Soldiers? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SpuriousLogic ( 1183411 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:32PM (#30372636)
    Seriously, if we had soldiers that were 40% stronger, that would be a huge advantage. They could carry more gear, or more powerful weapons, and be considerably more effective than "normal" soldiers. The Air Force already has done trials on drugs that allow pilots to stay awake for days without side effect(a little tangent here - I'm surprised IT departments have not done this yet for Admins and programmers). You have got to think the Army and Marines would be VERY interested in this if it is viable.
  • by LifesABeach ( 234436 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:32PM (#30372638) Homepage
    One group of people that might take advantage of this treatment would be the elderly. Diminishing muscle mass is a major issue. I use to joke about my Mother-In-Law being mean enough to hunt Bear with a Switch; some how that doesn't seem funny any more.
  • by axjms ( 167179 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:03PM (#30372864) Homepage

    While true that muscle burns more calories at rest and that a more heavier, more muscular person needs more calories than a lighter, thinner person I think most slashdotters are overestimating the effects. I mean the little hulk kid is growing too. All toddlers eat like little monsters. Anyway, a pound of muscle at rest burns 35 to 50 calories a day, so up to 500 calories for ten pounds of new muscle per day. So lets do some quick math. The average American male is made up of about 42% skeletal muscle, which at 185 lbs that is roughly 75 pounds of muscle. If you increase the muscle mass by 40% (Yes, I RTFA) that is about 30 lbs of new muscle. Pretty awesome when you think about it, but that still only burns an extra 1500 calories a day max. Most Americans overeat that amount anyway. I don't think anyone would be starving, they would just be harder and fitter. A big mac has over 500 calories to put that into perspective.

    I think a more interesting question is what do you do if this is readily available, cheap and easy to use? Would you do it? What if you are an active amateur cyclist working your way up the local ranks? They guys are gonna love you coming in with your extra 30 lbs of muscle and storm by them up the local hill. Do we start over with all the record books? This isn't exactly roids but it isn't exactly a tough training plan that you earned your fitness with either.

    • 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 Wednesday December 09, 2009 @12:42AM (#30374154)

        Ah, the old 'lactic acid' canard. Lactic acid as a cause of muscle fatigue was debunked years ago. Get with the program people.

        http://www.mensfitness.com/fitness/203 [mensfitness.com]
        Lactic acid does not cause muscle fatigue.

        "How It Started: Research conducted nearly 100 years ago (on frog muscles, no less) suggested that lactic-acid levels within muscles increased with fatigue.

        The Truth: "Lactic acid increases with fatigue because it's fueling your muscle contractions," says Chad Waterbury, a strength coach in Los Angeles. It causes the painful burning sensation in your muscles that makes you want to stop lifting, but your liver is also converting lactic acid into more energy, so it's actually helping to offset fatigue. Muscle fatigue is prompted by an accumulation of protons within the muscles, which is caused by the breakdown of glycogen, the stored carbohydrate that helps to fuel exercise."

        In one study, animal muscles were injected with lactic acid and actually performed longer with less fatigue, thoroughly and forever debunking the idea.

  • by Brad1138 ( 590148 ) <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:05PM (#30372890)
    How the apes got the upper hand.
  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:12PM (#30372942)

    When everyone is super - no one will be.


  • I'll wait... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alispguru ( 72689 ) <baneNO@SPAMgst.com> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:42PM (#30373150) Journal
    ... until the joint and bone strengthening pills are also available.
  • 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 Hasai ( 131313 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @10:43PM (#30373558)

    My career in the Army left me with a damaged back and knees, making it difficult for me to engage in meaningful exercise (or even stand for more than fifteen minutes). Among other complications, like joint stability, this also leave me fighting to control my weight.

    Anything that can give me a leg-up on overcoming these problems would be welcome.

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