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If you’re like most people, every time you step on the treadmill or sweat your way through a kickboxing class, you’re wondering — when will they develop a pill for this?
It turns out they have. Scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School have uncovered a key protein in muscle that leads to all the healthy benefits of exercise, which means it can improve blood sugar levels and melt away pounds without so much as an ounce of effort.
The problem is, the work is limited to mice.
The compound is a membrane protein in muscle cells — found both in humans and in mice — that’s broken down during exercise and secreted as a hormone. The researchers call this newly identified hormone “irisin,” named after Iris, the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology.
As exciting as the potential of irisin is, Spiegelman stresses that there is still a lot more we need to understand about brown fat metabolism before the compound can be tested in people. That means that for now, the findings don’t change existing health advice about the benefits of eating a nutritious diet and getting regular exercise. Even if irisin were to become available, can’t mimic all the health benefits of exercise. It can’t build muscle and strengthen bones, for example.