A genetically engineered mighty mouse is helping Medical College of Georgia researchers find the best way for young people to build bone and avoid osteoporosis.
"We are interested in kids; we want to know how to maximize their bone during peak periods of growth while they still can," says Dr. Mark Hamrick, bone biologist. "One of the best predictors of who is going to get osteoporosis and who is not is how much bone you have at sexual maturity. So we want to know what people can do from zero to age 18 that really is going to pack that bone on." These mighty mice, with up to 70 percent more muscle mass than a regular mouse and essentially no body fat, and a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health are helping Dr. Hamrick answer that question. The mice lack the myostatin gene, a negative regulator of muscle mass. "Lots of genes control muscle development," says Dr. Hamrick. "This one is pretty significant in terms of not letting muscles get too big."
Myostatin is expressed at highest levels during development, when the embryo is growing, to ensure that muscles dont overgrow, Dr. Hamrick says. The level expressed changes naturally over the course of life. "Its still expressed as children grow and is present in very low levels in adults," he says. "Its suggested that you might get rises in myostatin levels with aging, which is associated with a loss of muscle mass that typically accompanies increased age. " Some muscle-wasting diseases as well as space flight and extended bed rest also are associated with increased myostatin levels. Numerous products claim to help adults build muscle by turning off this powerful muscle regulator produced by muscle cells, Dr. Hamrick says. But the only product scientifically proven to block myostatin is a monoclonal antibody now under study for its potential to treat muscular dystrophy, he says.
Toni Baker | EurekAlert!
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