January 11, 2012. MTR -- Researchers have discovered a natural hormone that acts like exercise on muscle tissue—burning calories, improving insulin processing, and perhaps boosting strength. The scientists hope it could eventually be used as a treatment for obesity, diabetes, and, potentially, neuromuscular diseases like muscular dystrophy.Probably, it will be another 10 years before usefulness of this research for treating obesity becomes clear. In the meantime, all of us can start eating as much as we want and stop exercising completely ;) As Nobel Laureate Gary Becker had said, "We should consider the possibility of explaining the so-called obesity epidemic by people's belief that a cure for diabetes will soon become available."
tags: health, research, biology
From the Nature paper (doi:10.1038/nature10777):
As the conservation of calories would probably provide an overall survival advantage for mammals, it seems paradoxical that exercise would stimulate the secretion of a polypeptide hormone that increases thermogenesis and energy expenditure. One explanation for increased irisin expression with exercise in mouse and man may be that it evolved as a consequence of muscle contraction during shivering. Muscle secretion of a hormone that activates adipose thermogenesis during this process might provide a broader, more robust defence against hypothermia.
The therapeutic potential of irisin is obvious. Exogenously administered irisin induces the browning of subcutaneous fat and thermogenesis, and it presumably could be prepared and delivered as an injectable polypeptide. Increased formation of brown or beige/brite fat has been shown to have anti-obesity, antidiabetic effects in multiple murine models6, and adult humans have significant deposits of UCP1-positive brown fat15.
Data presented here show that even relatively short treatments of obese mice with irisin improves glucose homeostasis and causes a small weight loss. Whether longer treatments with irisin and/or higher doses would cause more weight loss remains to be determined. The worldwide, explosive increase in obesity and diabetes renders attractive the therapeutic potential of irisin in these and related disorders.