This New ‘Exercise Pill’ Could Induce Fitness Benefits Without Having To Exercise

Scientists in the US have achieved something that was long thought to be impossible. They have developed a swallowable pill that induces the same metabolic response that is otherwise only generated by exercise.

The drug, SLU-PP-332, improved rodent muscle function, fitness, and endurance without the animals having to move more than they’re used to. Bahaa Elgendy, the lead chemist on this project, says he has succeeded where others have faltered.

Suppose researchers can successfully target the same metabolic pathway in humans. In that case, Elgendy thinks it “could lead to the development of therapeutics for some of the most challenging diseases we are facing today, like neurodegenerative diseases and heart failure.”

Making an exercise pill has long been an ambition among scientists and chemists around the globe. Exercise has countless benefits for the human body as it taps into various metabolic pathways. However, one pathway with impressive results is the estrogen-related receptors (ERRs).

These receptors regulate a wide range of genes associated with metabolism, immunity, inflammation, homeostasis, development, cellular growth, and reproduction. However, accessing this particular pathway hasn’t been easy historically. Exercise is the only known way to access the ERRs.

Elgandy and his team are so sure of the drug’s success that they have put together a startup pharmaceutical company called Pelago Pharmaceuticals, which they predict will “launch this target’s clinical translatability.” Their research also shows that the mice given the SLU-PP-332 grow a fatigue-resistant type of muscle fiber in their bodies.

Subsequently, the rodents that received the drug were able to run 70 percent longer and 45 percent further than those not receiving the drug. It was also revealed that the mice that received the SLU-PP-332 twice a day for a month gained 10 times less fat than untreated mice, even though they kept eating the same amount of food and exercised the same amount.

“This compound is telling skeletal muscle to make the same changes you see during endurance training,” explained pharmacist Thomas Burris from UF when the results were published in 2023.

“When you treat mice with the drug, you can see that their whole body metabolism turns to using fatty acids, which is very similar to what people use when fasting or exercising. And the animals start losing weight.”

SLU-PP-332 is by no means a substitute for exercise, but it does convey many of exercise’s benefits to the heart, brain, and kidneys.

“Many people cannot exercise, and a pill could be super beneficial to mimic or enhance the effects of exercise for people who are aging, for people with certain diseases, or who are facing some muscle loss using some other drugs,” says Elgendy in a clip from the American Chemical Society meeting on YouTube.

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