In a recent study published in the journal Circulation, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine found that a molecule can boost exercise capacity and provide a significantly protective defense from diabetic cardiomyopathy, a severe heart condition that affects people with diabetes.
“This is a proof of concept. It shows that an antioxidant coming from skeletal muscle that can be induced by exercise training can provide profound protection against an important detrimental disease condition,” study author Dr. Zhen Yan said in a recent news release. “The implication is, if we can come up with a strategy to promote [this effect] in people who are vulnerable to, or already developing, diabetes, that could prevent the development of diabetic cardiomyopathy.”
In their research, the team enhanced the production of EcSOD in mice with the disease. EcSOD is a molecule stimulated in the skeletal muscle during exercise. They tested if the molecule could avert the effects of diabetic cardiomyopathy, including stiffening and enlargement of the heart. According to Dr. Yan, results showed that “even as little as two weeks of exercise could significantly elevate the level [of EcSOD] in the blood and the heart.”
In people who cannot exercise, a lack of this molecule could worsen their health problems, said Dr. Yan. “It’s quite possible that there could be a vicious cycle of inactivity. Conditions like heart failure or other chronic diseases would lead to loss of physical capacity and fitness and reduced activity, and due to the difficulties of exercising, this would lead to reduced expression of EcSOD, make them more vulnerable and accelerate their disease process,” he said in the news release. “So that is one of the reasons I personally believe that exercise is such a powerful intervention. It’s not only that exercise itself is really powerful — there’s a secondary consequence of inactivity.”
This novel finding can open the possibility of using EcSOD in drugs to help people who cannot exercise. This new “exercise drug” is still a future perspective, but Dr. Yan explained that “for this particular study, we wanted to know precisely what is the contribution of muscle-derived EcSOD. With that understanding, we can design experimental and clinical interventions to help patients. So that’s our next step.”