By Art Holliday
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - There's a reason the Clayton gym is named Sweat. In the power and punch class, men and women alternate a variety of exercises with punching a heavy bag.
"They want to lose weight, they want to gain muscle, they want to look better," said Sweat owner David Lazaroff.
The goals include weight loss, increased metabolism and endurance, and cholesterol improvement. What if you could design a pill that produced the same exercise benefits?
"I think anyone would say, 'Yeah I'd rather take a pill than have to work at it,' but I think there are other benefits to exercise," said Sweat client Heidi Miller, while furiously pedaling an exercise bike.
Dr. Thomas Burris recently became chairman of the department of pharmacological and physiological science at St. Louis University. The job brought him back to his home town after 25 years away from St. Louis. Burris and his research team at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, FL injected mice with a protein called REV-ERB and the results have been startling.
"Administering the drug increased metabolic rates in mice," said Dr. Burris. "They lost weight even if they were on a high-fat diet. Just like exercise lowers bad cholesterol, this compound appears to lower bad cholesterol and lower triglyceride levels."
Exercise without the sweat is an enticing idea, but Dr. Burris says the aim of his research is to help people who have difficulty exercising because of obesity or disease like diabetes.
"A lot of people are not able to exercise or may need the first steps toward losing weight before being able to safely exercise."
An exercise pill: a fascinating possibility that could impact the way we stay healthy.
"What this type of drug would be able to do is give you some of the benefits of exercise without the necessary physical exertion," said Dr. Burris.
Lazaroff says it's a promise that sounds familiar.
"There's multiple pills on the market now that claim those exact results, but nothing is going to work like getting into the gym," he said.
According to Dr. Burris, none of the mice in the study experienced negative side effects. As Burris speaks to venture capitalists about forming a company to create an exercise pill, he believes human trials could begin in two years or less.