Creating a Supermouse

Getting rid of a particular protein in mice by knocking out the gene that codes for it resulted in mice that could run twice as far as regular mice. Wow.

From New Scientist:

Auwerx and his colleagues used a targeted virus to knock out the gene that makes a protein called nuclear receptor corepressor 1 (NCoR1) in the muscle of mice. Without NCoR1, mitochondria, which power cells, keep working at full speed. “Effectively, the mice go further, faster, on the same amount of gas,” says Auwerx.

“The treated mice ran an average of 1600 metres in 2 hours, compared with 800 metres for untreated mice,” he says…

Auwerx warns athletes not to try to grow their muscles and stamina illicitly by somehow targeting the NCoR1 protein, however.

“We only know what happens if it’s knocked out either in fat or muscle, and it could have serious side effects on other organs,” he says. Also, he points out that without NCoR1, all fetuses perish, so it plays a vital but undiscovered role in fetal development.

Maybe I’m just naive, but this seems like a bit of a bombshell to drop without further details. What happened to the health of the mice in the long run? I can’t imagine it would be improved, but it’d be interesting to know exactly what the side effects were. 

The protein they mention, NCoR1, is responsible for down-regulating particular genes, preventing the cell from reading and using them, which is why it’s called a repressor. This raises a mountain of new questions – what do the genes it regulates code for? How are the mitochondria affected, specifically? I must know! 

This sounds like the kind of finding that can lead to the production of dangerous, illegal performance-enhancers in the future – let’s hope it works out for the best. 

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