Myostatin is a protein that has been gaining traction in the world of health, fitness, and biology in general. Often referred to as the “muscle growth regulator,” myostatin plays a pivotal role in determining the extent to which muscles can expand and thrive. In this article, we are going to unravel the mysteries behind myostatin, exploring its functions and implications.
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Myostatin is a protein encoded by the MSTN gene, belonging to the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) superfamily. This protein is primarily synthesized and released by muscle cells, acting as a negative regulator of muscle growth. Simply put, it puts a check on the excessive expansion of muscle tissues, ensuring a balance in the overall muscular development of an organism.
Its primary function revolves around inhibiting muscle cell differentiation and growth. When it binds to the muscle cell receptors, it activates signaling pathways that suppress gene expression involved in muscle development. This inhibition prevents muscles from growing too large, maintaining a harmonious equilibrium in the body.
What Does Myostatin Inhibition Entail?
In this section, we are going to cover a list of pathways that the protein might target based on the available studies. However, these findings shouldn’t be taken as supportive for therapeutic or medical benefits as no myostatin inhibitors are yet to be approved as drugs.
It Can Prevent the Degeneration of Muscles
Myostatin inhibition can affect muscles in various ways. Some evidence shows that it can prevent muscles from weakening following extended periods of inactivity. In one study, inhibition of the protein minimized muscle loss in young mice that were prevented from utilizing their hind legs for three weeks.
Researchers also think that inhibiting myostatin could potentially serve as a preventive measure against muscle loss triggered by various diseases. For instance, when the genes responsible for myostatin production were removed from the hearts of mice, it effectively prevented the significant muscle and weight loss associated with heart failure.
In addition, inhibiting myostatin effectively thwarted muscle loss and weakness in mice affected by Huntington’s Disease, a genetic disorder leading to progressive muscle degeneration.
Cachexia, a cancer-related symptom leading to muscle and fat loss despite sufficient nutrition, accounts for over 20% of cancer-related deaths in humans. Research in mouse models indicates that inhibiting myostatin could potentially thwart cancer-induced muscle loss, observed in both lung and skin cancer, such as melanoma. These findings underscore the need for further exploration of myostatin inhibition as a prospective avenue to prevent cachexia-related cancer fatalities in humans.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an untreatable condition resulting in muscle tissue loss. Studies indicate that myostatin inhibition has successfully augmented muscle mass in dogs and mice afflicted with DMD. This further underscores the need to explore the potential of myostatin inhibitors as a viable avenue for investigation in human patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
It Can Help Build Muscle
In a study involving utilizing compounds such as Follistatin 344 to inhibit or reduce myostatin levels, findings indicated that a 7-day treatment boosted grip strength in six middle-aged human subjects. The authors proposed a connection between myostatin and muscle development in healthy individuals. However, comprehensive clinical trials are required in order to substantiate their hypothesis.
In an examination of a human child displaying remarkably elevated muscle development, the study noted unusually low levels of myostatin. The authors proposed that inhibition of myostin may have caused the enhanced muscle growth. However, it’s worth noting that no other comparable cases have been reported.
Suppressing myostatin in adult mice that were in good health resulted in a notable augmentation of overall muscle mass and grip strength. This implies that myostatin plays a role in regulating muscle size even in adulthood.
Comparable associations have been noted in both mice and cattle, where genetic mutations hindering the production of myostatin lead to the development of “double-muscled” animals. These animals exhibit up to 20% more muscle fibers than the average, accompanied by significantly lowered levels of body fat.
It May Alleviate Fat Gain
Blocking myostatin might help lessen the buildup of fat in the body. This has mainly been observed in animal studies involving follistatin, a natural hormone that stops myostatin. In mice, using follistatin to stop myostatin resulted in less weight gain from fat and also made the fat-storing cells (adipocytes) smaller. Some researchers believe that the hormone’s inhibition should be further studied for potentially preventing diabetes and obesity.
What are the Potential Side Effects of Myostatin Inhibition?
Even without safety information, myostatin inhibitors have gained popularity as athletic supplements, with claims of rapid muscle growth. However, there are potential drawbacks for those seeking athletic enhancement through myostatin inhibition.
The primary concern is the absence of clinical trials or observational studies. The long-term effects of myostatin inhibition, including various purported myostatin inhibitors, in healthy individuals are currently unknown. Another potential concern is that heightened muscle growth could raise the risk of injuries because of added stress on the muscle fibers. This concern might be particularly relevant for those using myostatin inhibitors as fitness supplements instead of part of medical treatment for conditions like muscular dystrophy.