Experts state muscle-secreted neurturin provides similar results as exercise

Scientists from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden pinpointed a protein that enhances motor coordination, muscular metabolism, and exercise performance in mice. The results were published in the Cell Metabolism journal. The observations can be of therapeutic value for patients with muscle and neurological diseases, like Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Experts state muscle-secreted neurturin provides similar results as exercise
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Muscle health is an important determinant of overall health and the possible means to keep muscles healthy is by doing regular exercise. But exercise is not possible for patients with debilitating diseases. Hence, scientists are on the lookout for molecules that can provide similar benefits to physical exercise.

In recent research, scientists from the Karolinska Institutet analyzed the effects of a muscle-produced protein named neurturin on neuromuscular function. Knowledge of the signals that mediate motor neuron and muscle communication is vital for investigating novel treatments for neurological and muscle-related diseases, like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

We wanted to know if muscles can talk back to motor neurons by sending their own messages, and to find out what are the consequences of those signals.”

Jorge Ruas, Study Corresponding Author and Professor, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institute

Mice genetically modified to produce more neurturin in muscle cells substantially enhanced their muscle metabolism, exercise performance, and motor coordination in comparison to regular mice. The high neurturin mice also had greater number of motor neurons of a type that is much resistant to degeneration in diseases similar to ALS.

To find out that a molecule released from muscle fibers can actually change motor neuron identity, shifting them to a type that is associated with more resistance to degeneration opens really exciting possibilities for the future.”

Jorge Ruas, Study Corresponding Author and Professor, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institute

As a further step, the scientists intend to analyze the therapeutic potential of neurturin in mouse models of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and ALS. They are also experimenting on modifying the administration of neurturin to enable it to be utilized as a potential drug.

There’s much to be done, but we believe this could be of therapeutic value for patients with metabolic and neuromuscular diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and ALS.”

Jorge Correia, Study First Author and Researcher, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institute

The scientists highlight certain limitations of the research, like using genetic tools and viral vectors to enhance neurturin levels, which is not precisely applicable from a therapeutic viewpoint.

Source:
Journal reference:

Correia, J. C., et al. (2021) Muscle-secreted neurturin couples myofiber oxidative metabolism and slow motor neuron identity. Cell Metabolism. doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2021.09.003.

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