Thursday, January 19, 2012

Need another reason to hit the treadmill? Do it for your cells!

It has been proven time and time again that exercise has many benefits. It decreases your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other metabolic diseases. But how deep do the benefits of exercise go? According to a study by Levine et al at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical school, the benefits and effects of exercise can be seen at the cellular level (Exercise Triggers Beneficial Cellular Recycling).

This study reveals how cells use exercise to promote autophagy, the process of breaking down "junk" cellular contents and proteins. Autophagy occurs once a double membrane forms around the unwanted parts of the cell and joins with a lysosome. The lysosome contains many enzymes that break down the materials, thereby creating a burst of energy for the cell. Starvation and increased autophagy have long been linked, but the effects of exercise on autophagy is a new development.

Mice were genetically engineered to produce green protein (most likely GFP but it didn't say in the article) whenever an autophagy event occurred in the cells. These mice were then subjected to 30 minutes of treadmill running, and upon inspection of heart and muscle cells, green dots were found throughout the tissue. Autophagy was also observed in the pancreas and the liver, which are both involved in glucose metabolism.

Although it was seen that exercise triggers autophagy, but what purpose does autophagy serve? To test this question, mice were engineered to undergo autophagy, but due to a mutation in BCL2 protein (A protein that inhibits cells death and regulates autophagy), were unable to increase autophagy during exercise. When these mice were placed on a treadmill, they were unable to run as long as the normal mice because they were unable to metabolize glucose properly. To look at long term effects of exercise, Levine fed the mice a high fat diet for 4 weeks. Naturally these mice gained weight and developed type 2 diabetes. They were then placed on an exercise schedule while still on a high fat diet. The normal mice lost weight, gained back their ability to metabolize glucose, and their diabetes disappeared. The mutant mice lost some weight, but still had high blood sugar and diabetes. What does this mean? It means that autophagy in cells is essential to their continued viability and metabolic processing ability. And exercise increases the rate of autophagy in all of your cells, thereby promoting their healthy functioning.

So today's maddening idea? Get on your treadmill for your cells!


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