Hormone produced by exercise helps control obesity, blood sugar levels

The San Francisco Chronicle reports a study in Nature showing that irisin, “a hormone naturally found in muscle cells … rises during exercise, converting white fat into brown fat, a substance whose primary function is to generate body heat.”

When irisin was injected “into obese, pre-diabetic mice, the animals lost weight and their blood sugar levels improved.” Researchers suggested that this finding “may lead to treatments for obesity and diabetes, as well as other disorders where exercise may benefit patients who are too weak to engage in it.”

The New York Times “Well” blog notes that activity increases the protein “PGC1-alpha, which is produced in abundance in muscles during and after exercise,” which then stimulates “the expression of a protein known as Fndc5,” which then “[breaks] into different pieces,” generating irisin.

“Follow-up experiments with muscle cells from human volunteers who’d completed a controlled, weeks-long jogging program found that they had much higher levels of irisin in their cells than before the exercise program began.”

The Boston Globe “White Coat Notes” blog reports, “A Boston startup company, Ember Therapeutics, has already licensed the technology and is working to develop a form of the hormone that could be used as a drug that would mimic some of the benefits of exercise.”

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