“Incredible Hulk” Drug Uses Genetic Research to Increase Muscle Growth

15 May

hulk shadow bodybuilding gene

Bodybuilding Gene Leads to Drug That Inhibits Myostatin

In a previous article about genetic bodybuilding I mentioned the research behind the potential muscle building properties of the myostatin gene.

The Myostatin Gene Controversy

Myostatin is a protein that prevents your muscles from growing too large.

For most animals, if your muscles grow too large your body burns too many calories, and you could die if you don’t have enough food to eat.

Fortunately humans have solved this caloric dilemma with calorically concentrated creations like Twinkies and Man Vs. Food.

Researchers showed that if the myostatin gene doesn’t work, then no myostatin protein gets produced, and your muscles grow twice as large.

Cows, dogs, and even mice have been shown to grow muscles that are nearly twice as large as their wimpy counterparts. (They also start calling each other “bro”.)

follistatin inhibits myostatin protein in mice Wendy ripped muscle dog genetically altered cow muscles

It was imagined that this could be used to create a gene therapy for people whose muscle tissue was atrophying from disease, or for bro’s who wanted to become “natural bodybuilders”. (I’m all natural bro! Really!)

It could even become a choice in creating designer babies that could be stronger and faster than any known humans today, making the Olympics and other athletic contests more a measure of how well you designed your child’s genes than how hard you trained.

Or it could be used to create an army of super soldiers led by Jean Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren.

jean claude van damme and Dolph Lundgren in Universal Soldier

That future may be upon us sooner than we thought possible.

The Myostatin Drug

Gene therapy to inhibit the myostatin gene is a long way from being implemented, and doctor’s probably wouldn’t allow young men who wanted to bulk up to undergo such treatments.

Not to worry!  The drug companies have found a way to make inhibiting myostatin as easy as popping a pill. (the American way!)

the myostatin regulation pathway

Novartis, one of the world’s largest biotech firms, is nearing completion of its stage 2 trials of its myostatin inhibiting drug, BYM338, which is being “rushed” through trials by the FDA thanks to the fact that it treats a deadly disease called sIGM, sporadic inclusion body myositis, in which the patient’s muscles waste away.

BYM338 (the drug’s secret temporary name) is an antibody that blocks the activin receptors which myostatin molecules require to send signals to the muscle fibers to tell them to stop growing.  Once the receptors are blocked, the muscle can grow without inhibition.

Get ready to buy Novartis stock, because if this drug gets approved, you better believe it will not only be sold to treat sIGM, but every possible disorder that involves weakened or atrophied muscles, and that every college and professional athlete will be self-diagnosing themselves with sIGM to get their hands on it.

Is Myostatin the Next EPO?

Experts are watching this case closely because of what happened to the sports world when EPO came onto the market.

Remember Lance Armstrong?


EPO (Erythropoietin) is a hormone that regulates red blood cell production.  It was first sold as a drug called Epogen by Amgen, and later upgraded to a higher potency formula called Aranesp, both of which bring in billions of dollars in sales for Amgen annually.

It was meant to treat people with anemia due to conditions resulting from kidney disorders and cancer treatments.

EPO quickly became the go to drug for endurance athletes.  Turns out if you have more red blood cells in your body, you get a lot more oxygen into your cells and you can perform aerobic activities for much longer and at much higher intensity.

Endurance athletes used to train at altitude to force their bodies to produce more red blood cells.  Now they buy EPO from their doctors, who will accept pretty much any excuse to “prescribe” it thanks to excellent incentives from the drug companies to prescribe their medicines.


Other commonly abused drugs include steroids, corticosteroids, testosterone and human growth hormone.  The difference with myostatin blockers is that they may be completely undetectable.  Once the drug has blocked your activin receptors, your muscles could develop unchecked without leaving a trace.

In a World of Arnolds, How Big Will Be Big Enough?

It has become commonplace to see men, especially athletes, with biceps the size of softballs and heads the size of basketballs.  We are used to endurance athletes breaking all the records year after year.  It is difficult to see the performance and size craze going away any time soon.

3 bodybuilders on stage each larger than the next

The future of sports?

Myostatin inhibitors may be the next big step in our self-evolution, or “self-olution” (trademarked and copyrighted!) as a species. bodybuilding-146224_1280

The drug companies sure aren’t going to stop it.  Would you turn down a billion dollars?

It is nice to know. however that I’ll finally have the chance to look like my childhood action hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger, without having to do any of that annoying weight lifting or dieting stuff.

But with my luck, “Dad Bods” will be the in thing.

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