Researchers Study New Protein That Could Harness the Benefits of Exercise

“Sestrins are not small molecules, but we are working to find small molecule modulators of Sestrin.”


We all know what exercise does to our body, irrespective of a brisk walk to high-intensity workout. But, what if you can reap the benefits of exercise without actually exercising?

Well, Michigan researchers have been studying a naturally occurring protein known as Sestrin and found that it can actually mimic many of the exercise’s effects in mice and flies.

They said these findings could help them to combat muscle wasting caused by aging and other medical conditions.

Lead researchers Prof. Myungjin Kim and Prof. Jun Hee Lee wanted to understand how Sestrin is linked to exercise so their first step was to conduct a study on a group of flies.

Prof. Kim said, “Researchers have previously observed that Sestrin accumulates in muscle following exercise.”

By developing a type of fly treadmill, the researchers trained the flies for at least three weeks and compared the abilities to run and flying of normal flies to the abilities of flies who lacked the ability to make Sestrin.

Prof. Lee said, “Flies can usually run around four to six hours at this point and the normal flies’ abilities improved over that period. The flies without Sestrin did not improve with exercise.” The benefits of Sestrin include more than just improved endurance.

The researchers also conducted a study on mice and found that the mice without Sestrin lacked the improved aerobic capacity, improved respiration, and fat burning ability associated with exercise.

“We propose that Sestrin can coordinate these biological activities by turning on or off different metabolic pathways,” said Prof. Lee. “This kind of combined effect is important for producing exercise’s effects.”

Prof. Lee and other researchers noted that the muscle-specific protein Sestrin could also help prevent muscle atrophy in those whose muscles remain immobilized due to a limb cast for a longer period of time.

Prof. Lee explained, “This independent study again highlights that Sestrin alone is sufficient to produce many benefits of physical movement and exercise.”

Responding to whether Sestrin supplements would be on the horizon, Prof. Lee said, “Sestrins are not small molecules, but we are working to find small molecule modulators of Sestrin.”

However, the researchers still do not know how exercise helps produce Sestrin in the body. “This is very critical for future study and could lead to a treatment for people who cannot exercise,” said the researcher.