Topflight biology brains say they have identified a key protein, the furtling of which could allow massively increased muscular development and strength in human beings. Genetic manipulation of the "Grb10" compound has already been tried out in mice, producing "hyper-muscular" rodents capable of almost super-murine feats.
"By identifying a novel mechanism regulating muscle development, our work has revealed potential new strategies to increase muscle mass," explains Dr Lowenna J Holt from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia. "Ultimately, this might improve treatment of muscle wasting conditions, as well as metabolic disorders such as Type 2 diabetes."
Grb10 is an "intracellular adaptor protein" which apparently acts by regulating down the level of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1), the stuff which causes muscles to bulk up.
Holt and her colleagues compared two groups of mice. Once group had disruption of the Grb10 gene, and were very muscular. The other group, where the Grb10 gene was functional, had normal muscles. Researchers examined the properties of the muscles in both adult and newborn mice and discovered that the alterations caused by loss of Grb10 function had mainly occurred during prenatal development. These results provide insight into how Grb10 works, suggesting that it may be possible to alter muscle growth and facilitate healing, as the processes involved in muscle regeneration and repair are similar to those for the initial formation of muscle.
The allied boffins go so far in their paper, to be published in print in September's FASEB Journal, as to describe the augmented Hulk-bulk mice as "hyper-muscular", hinting that especially sturdy cages may have been needed to contain the tiny but exceptionally buff rodents.
The scientists thus far are viewing potential Grb10 tweaking as a method for helping human patients to battle muscle wasting diseases, but there can be little doubt that the techniques - if successful - would also be abused by the bodybuilding and rogue-secret-military-special-operations-organisation communities - and indeed perhaps by the time-poor or lazy. ®