Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fatigue and Calcium Leaks


New findings point to a novel explanation for muscle fatigue, calcium leaks. I knew it! No. No, I didn't. I had no idea. The researchers

looked at making mice exercise to exhaustion, swimming and then running on a treadmill. The calcium channels in their skeletal muscles became leaky, the investigators found. And when they gave the mice their experimental drug, the animals could run 10 to 20 percent longer.
I am intrigued with these findings and not only because it involved forcing mice to swim and run on treadmills, which manages to sound both very cute and very cruel at the same time. Subsequent experiments demonstrated that the same mechanism is at work in human muscle fatigue, so we can be certain that the phrase "stops calcium leaks" is now being printed on the packaging of countless potions, supplements, and quack remedies sold to runners and other endurance athletes.

Even if a way to stop calcium leaks is found, is it a good idea for athletes? One of the researchers advises caution:
“Maybe this is a protective mechanism,” he said. “Maybe fatigue is saying that you are getting ready to go into a danger zone. So it is cutting you off. If you could will yourself to run as fast and as long as you could, some people would run until they keeled over and died.”
Wise words, I would say. We simply have no idea what hardships await those of us with a mammalian body plan who can suppress the strong signal of fatigue. I think it's fair to infer an evolutionary rationale for fatigue, even if we can't necessarily pin it down right now.

Someone will find out for us, of course -- many someones, I would guess -- and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

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1 comment:

Chubbs said...

This is good news, especially if the drug that stops calcium leakage also prevents anal leakage. I'm buying stock in Olestra.